Vascular depression: overrepresented among African Americans?


Correspondence to: J. R. Sneed, PhD, E-mail:



Our primary aim was to compare the rate of vascular depression among a clinical sample of African American and Caucasian depressed older adults. Secondary aims included characterizing the clinical and neuropsychological profile of vascular depression and comparing antidepressant response rates between patients with vascular and nonvascular depression.


This was a two-site, multi-ethnic, open 8-week trial of antidepressant medication in older adults with depression. Men and women 50 years or older meeting DSM-IV criteria for nonpsychotic unipolar depression participated in this trial. Each participant underwent a comprehensive psychiatric and neuropsychological evaluation and a brain MRI, which were performed at baseline.


Forty-six patients met inclusion and exclusion criteria. Forty-two of those patients received an MRI at baseline. Sixteen patients met criteria for vascular depression. Patients with vascular depression were significantly more likely to be African American and have a higher likelihood of being female, a higher rate of hypertension and psychomotor retardation, a lower rate of family history of affective illness, and frontal systems dysfunction on neuropsychological testing. The difference in response rates between patients with vascular and nonvascular depression did not reach statistical significance.


This is the first study to document high rates of vascular depression in a clinical sample of African Americans and Caucasians. Our findings suggest that vascular depression may be overrepresented among African Americans, which is consistent with the high rates of cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and stroke in this population. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.