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Race Differences in Depressive Symptoms: A Dynamic Perspective on Stress Exposure and Vulnerability

Linda K. George and Scott M. Lynch
Journal of Health and Social Behavior
Vol. 44, No. 3, Special Issue: Race, Ethnicity, and Mental Health (Sep., 2003), pp. 353-369
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1519784
Page Count: 17
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Abstract

The existence, nature, and strength of race differences in mental health remain unclear after several decades of research. In this research, we examine black-white differences in the relationship between acute stressors and depressive symptoms. We reframe the stress exposure and differential vulnerability hypotheses in the context of long-term trajectories of stress and depression, and we hypothesize that trajectories of stress growth will be associated with trajectories of depressive symptom growth. Using latent growth curve analysis of a sample of 1,972 older persons interviewed three times at three-year intervals, we test the hypotheses that (1) growth in exposure to loss-related events will predict growth in depressive symptoms, and (2) African Americans will experience greater stress growth than whites. Results support the hypotheses. Stress growth exhibited a linear increase for blacks but not for whites, and predicted depression growth for both races, but explained more variance for blacks than for whites.

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