Anxiety Disorders and Other Mental Disorders

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Available data on the rates of anxiety, substance abuse, schizophrenia, and other mental disorders among minority elders is more limited. Using data from the ECA, Eaton, Dryman, and Weissman (1991) report lifetime rates of panic disorder of less than 1% among older African Americans and between 1% and 3% among older Hispanics, rates that are not substantially different from those found among older non-Hispanic whites. The lifetime rates of phobic disorder, however, were found to be considerably higher among older African Americans (15% to 24%) than among older Hispanics (5% to 10%) or non-Hispanic whites (7% to 13%). Blazer, Hughes, George, Swartz, and Boyer (1991) reported that the rates of generalized anxiety disorder were 1% to 3% among older African Americans, and less than 1% among older Hispanics, rates comparable to those reported for older non-Hispanic whites. In a recent study of older Asian Americans, Harada and Kim (1995) reported rates of anxiety disorders ranging from 5% among the Japanese elderly to 13% among older Vietnamese, rates of psychotic disorders ranging from 13% among older Vietnamese to 29% of older, Japanese, and rates of adjustment disorders ranging from 15% among older Filipinos to 20% among older Chinese.

The rates of alcohol abuse and dependency are reportedly higher in older minorities than non-Hispanic whites, particularly among older males. Data from the ECA (Helzer, Burnam, & McEvay, 1991), for example, indicate lifetime rates of 17.8% among older African American males, in comparison to 10.8% among older Hispanics and 10.4% among non-Hispanic whites. Both older African American and Hispanic males, however, are reported to have higher current rates of alcoholism (2.9% and 6.6%, respectively) than non-Hispanic white males (2.8%). The rates are highest, however, among older Native Americans, particularly older males. The rates of alcohol abuse and dependency, as well as alcoholism are generally much lower in all groups of older females. The rates of drug abuse and dependency are very low among virtually all older adults, although they constitute a serious problem (Gaw, 1993). Both alcohol and drug abuse, however, may be underecognized in older adults, due to symptoms that may be attributed to medical conditions or to the reluctance of clinicians to identify such problems in older adults (Zarit & Zarit, 1998).

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