Southern African American women who live in rural areas are far less likely to suffer from depression than those living in urban or suburban areas, a new study finds. For white women, geography appears to play less of a role.
Rural African American women who live in the South are less likely to suffer from major depression than their urban counterparts, a research report says.
This is true even though black rural women are more likely to live in poverty and have lower rates of education – factors that are associated with the incidence of major depression.
While rural black women fared better with depression, rural white women, on the other hand, fared slightly worse, the study found.
The researchers speculate that the lower rate of depression among rural black women may be because these women have better systems of social support than the other groups considered in the study.
Researchers at the University of Michigan sought to understand how factors such as poverty and low rates of education affect mental illness among rural women. Overall, women are 1.5 to 3 times more likely to report being depressed than men.
The study used data gathered from the National Survey of American Life. Respondents were categorized by where they live, their race, and whether they suffered from depression. The full sample used in the paper included 3,570 black women and 891 white women.
About 4 percent of rural African American women in the South experienced depression at some point in their lives, versus about 10 percent for urban black women. (The data has been adjusted so it more accurately reflects the population the researchers sought to study.)
Suburban African American women in the South had the highest rate of depression, at about 13 percent, though the margin of error in sampling could account for that difference. (The study had a standard error of 1.0 and 0.9 percent for rural and urban black women and 5.9 percent for suburban black women.)
Among white women in the South, geography appeared to play a less important role in predicting whether a woman had suffered depression at some point in her life. Depression was more prevalent overall among white women (ranging from 21 percent for rural white women and about 19 percent for suburban white women). But there was far less difference in rates of depression among rural, suburban, and urban white women.
Overall, white women in the study were twice as likely as African American women to have suffered from depression.
Although the relationship between depression and race is complex and multifaceted, the authors theorized that varying levels of social support networks between black and white women contributed to the findings.
Factors such as strong familial support and social ties, high levels of spirituality, and a sense of solidarity with other rural women of color could contribute to the lower rates of depression, the study said.
The authors noted more research would be needed to better understand the needs of rural communities and to formulate successful intervention strategies.