Differences in mental health outcomes among Whites, African Americans, and Hispanics following a community disaster

Richard E Adams, Joseph A Boscarino
Psychiatry 2005, 68 (3): 250-65
A number of studies have assessed the association between race and ethnicity and psychological health status following exposure to a stressful event. However, some of these studies indicate racial and ethnic minorities have poorer mental health relative to Whites, while others show no differences or that minorities may actually have better psychological health. One year after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, we collected data on a random sample of city residents (N = 2368). The dependent variables were posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), PTSD symptom severity, major depression, panic attack, and general physical and mental well-being. We categorized our respondents as Non-Hispanic White, Non-Hispanic African American, Dominican, Puerto Rican, and Other Hispanics. Bivariate results indicated racial/ethnic differences for PTSD symptom severity, depression, general physical and mental health, and panic attack. Using logistic regression and controlling for possible confounding factors, most of these associations were rendered non-significant. That is, we found no post-disaster racial/ethnic differences for PTSD, PTSD symptom severity, or physical health. African Americans and Other Hispanics were less likely to meet criteria for major depression or to be classified as unhealthy on the self-report SF-12 mental health scale compared to Whites. Only for panic attack were African Americans and Puerto Ricans more likely to meet criteria for this outcome. Thus, our study found little support for the hypothesis that Latinos or African Americans consistently suffered from poorer psychological and physical well-being in the aftermath of traumatic events, relative to Whites.

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