New report shows glaring racial disparities in major depression treatment

June 1, 2022

The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA) released new data that found major depression goes undiagnosed and untreated at disproportionately greater rates in majority Black and Hispanic communities.

The study investigates the prevalence of diagnosis and treatment of major depressive disorder, or major depression, to quantify the extent of racial and ethnic inequities in mental health and help inform potential solutions.

“We cannot heal what we have not identified,” said Adam Myers, M.D., chief clinical transformation officer at BCBSA. “Our data shows significant under-diagnosis and unnecessary suffering in historically marginalized communities— and it is unacceptable. It is critical to rigorously prioritize getting people the mental healthcare they need, when they need it, no matter where they live or their racial, ethnic or linguistic background.”

The report, Racial Disparities in Diagnosis and Treatment of Major Depression, found in Black and Hispanic communities with greater access to mental healthcare, major depression diagnoses increased significantly. Diagnoses in White communities changed very little even when there were more providers. This suggests major depression is underdiagnosed in Black and Hispanic communities with insufficient access to care.

BCBSA also surveyed 2,700 adults ages 18 to 75 and found that Black and Hispanic respondents were more likely to seek information on mental health outside of the healthcare system, prefer mental health providers with similar life experiences, and believe mental health is stigmatized in their communities.

“Those who provide mental healthcare need to make communities of color feel safe, respected and heard,” Myers continued. “A diverse workforce delivering sensitive, culturally tailored care could start to ease the trust deficit.”

Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies are committed to addressing inequities in mental healthcare, while rigorously prioritizing four focus areas that will have the biggest impact: the youth mental health crisis; ensuring equitable access to mental healthcare; improving care integration of physical and mental health; and confronting unacceptable racial inequities in mental health.

Collaboration is essential to transforming mental health. BCBS companies across the country are collaborating with business leaders, policymakers, researchers and community leaders to act with a sense of urgency to meaningfully improve outcomes for millions of Americans and reverse the mental health crisis we face.

BCBSA release