A new study from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University and the Hispanic Community Health Study/Study of Latinos (HCHS/SOL) has found that most Hispanics with depression remain untreated and the probability is highest if they are uninsured. As far as prevalence is concerned, Puerto Ricans have the highest incidence of depression amongst all the different races that makeup the Hispanic population.

"Various studies have looked at the mental health of Hispanics and Latinos, but most have focused on people of Mexican background or looked only at broad groupings of nationalities," said lead author Sylvia Wassertheil-Smoller, Ph.D.,distinguished university professor emerita of epidemiology & population health and co-principal investigator of HCHS/SOL at Einstein in a university release. "Our study has found that mental health problems differ among the various groups comprising this population, suggesting that healthcare workers should look more closely at subgroups of Hispanics and Latinos to deliver appropriate mental health services."

The study -- published in Annals of Epidemiology -- sampled over 16,000 Hispanics/Latinos from ages 18 to 74 living in New York, Chicago, San Diego and Miami. All subjects filled out a questionnaire on depression and anxiety and the researchers found that 27 percent of Hispanics reported high levels of depressive symptoms. The lowest values were found amongst subjects with Mexican heritage -- with 22.3 percent — and the highest was found amongst those with Puerto Rican background -- with 38 percent.

"The main message of this study is that physicians need to pay more attention to depression and anxiety among Hispanics and Latinos," Dr. Wassertheil-Smoller noted. "Our findings also have important implications for managing cardiovascular disease. When patients already have cardiovascular disease, we know that being depressed worsens their prognosis."

In addition to learning about the prevalence of the condition, the study also found that Hispanics have low usage of antidepressant and anti-anxiety medications. In fact, only 5 percent of the study sample admitted to taking medications while 27 percent suffered from symptoms of depression. Not surprisingly, medication usage varied by insurance status as well: 8.2 percent of insured people used antidepressants while only 1.8 percent of uninsured did the same.

Other key findings in the Annals of Epidemiology paper, as reported by Science Daily, include:

• Older people (ages 45 to 64) were 21 percent more likely to have symptoms of depression (e.g., sadness, loss of interest, difficulties concentrating, and thoughts of suicide) than younger individuals (ages 25 to 44).

• Women were twice as likely as men to experience high levels of depressive symptoms

• First-and second-generation Hispanics/Latinos were significantly more likely to have symptoms of depression than those born outside the U.S. mainland. A history of cardiovascular disease (heart attack, stroke, or revascularization/stenting) increased the likelihood of depression by 77 percent.

• The higher the number of cardiovascular risk factors (such as smoking, obesity, hypertension and diabetes), the greater the likelihood that a person was depressed.

• Anxiety prevalence followed a pattern similar to depression.