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Race and Mental Illness: An Epidemiologic Update

George J. Warheit, Charles E. Holzer III and Sandra A. Arey
Journal of Health and Social Behavior
Vol. 16, No. 3 (Sep., 1975), pp. 243-256
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2136874
Page Count: 14
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Race and Mental Illness: An Epidemiologic Update
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Abstract

This paper presents findings on the relationship between race and mental health extracted from a major five year epidemiologic study conducted in the southeastern United States. Mental health scores on five separate psychiatric scales are compared for blacks and whites. These comparisons are made in two ways. First, simple correlations using T tests and analysis of variance are computed; then the variable race is included with age, sex and socioeconomic status in a stepwise multiple regression equation. The results show that blacks had higher mean scores than whites on all the scales: the differences are statistically significant on every measure. When controlled for the other sociodemographic factors, however, the variable black is statistically significant in only two of the equations and in one of these the significance level is quite minimal. Being black is a highly significant variable when scores on a phobia scale are analyzed. In every instance, low socioeconomic status is the most powerful predictor of high mental health scores. The authors conclude that there is no definitive evidence that race alone is a primary etiologic factor in accounting for differences in the rates of mental illness between blacks and whites.

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