Depressive Symptoms among Aging African American Men: A mixed methods study of social and cultural contexts

Principal Investigator:
Daphne C. Watkins, PhD (University of Michigan School of Social Work)

Funded by:
Michigan Center for Urban African American Aging Research (MCUAAAR)

Project Goals and Approach:
Age differences in health are often explained using the “healthy survivor effect” which suggests that current cohorts of older African American men who do not have serious mental health problems are a unique subgroup of African American men who are mentally healthier and more likely to live longer. However, it is not clear whether it is just longevity or specific strategies that older African American men use to maintain lower levels of depression compared to their younger counterparts.

This study uses the triangulation multilevel model design (Creswell & Plano Clark, 2007) to understand the etiology and symptomatology of depression among aging African American men. The Depression care in African American Church Elders study (DAACE)  and the National Survey of American Life (NSAL) will be used to build and test conceptual frameworks that examine the demographic correlates of depressive symptoms, serious psychological distress, and major depressive disorder (12-month and lifetime prevalence) among African American men over the age of 55.

This research aims to advance knowledge about the mental health outcomes of older African American men as influenced by the social and cultural experiences that may exacerbate poor mental health. This approach allows for an exploration of focus group data to establish a localized perspective of depression as well as multivariate quantitative relationships using survey data. Findings will demonstrate the value of research that brings together the unique conceptual and methodological perspectives of qualitative and quantitative research to address a single phenomenon. Findings will also lead to the development of a NIH proposal that will apply the triangulation multilevel model design on a larger scale to understand the social and cultural context of depression among aging African American men. Such efforts will result in the development of programs aims at improving healthy aging for African American men.

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