• ethnicity;
  • prevalence;
  • psychiatric illness;
  • older adults

OBJECTIVES: To compare lifetime and 12-month prevalence of psychiatric disorders in a nationally representative sample of older Latino, Asian, African-American, and Afro-Caribbean adults with that of older non-Latino white adults.

DESIGN: Cross-sectional study conducted in 2001 through 2004.

SETTING: Urban and rural households in the contiguous United States.

PARTICIPANTS: Two thousand three hundred seventy-five community-dwelling residents aged 60 and older living in noninstitutional settings. Data are from the National Institutes of Mental Health Collaborative Psychiatric Epidemiological Studies.

METHODS: The World Mental Health Composite International Diagnostic Interview assessed lifetime and 12-month psychiatric disorders. Bayesian estimates compared psychiatric disorder prevalence rates of ethnic and racial groups.

RESULTS: Older non-Latino whites exhibited a greater prevalence on several lifetime diagnoses than older Asian, African-American, and Afro-Caribbean respondents. Older Latinos did not differ from older non-Latino whites on any lifetime diagnosis and had higher 12-month rates of any depressive disorder. No differences were observed in the 12-month diagnoses between older non-Latino whites and the other racial and ethnic minority groups. Older immigrant Latinos had higher lifetime rates of dysthymia and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) than U.S.-born Latinos. Older immigrant Asians had higher lifetime rates of GAD than U.S.-born Asians. Older immigrant Latinos had higher 12-month rates of dysthymia than older U.S.-born Latinos.

CONCLUSION: Caution should be taken when generalizing the protective effects of ethnicity into old age. Older Asians and African-Americans exhibited lower prevalence rates of some psychiatric disorders, whereas older Latinos exhibited rates equal to those of older non-Latino whites. Also, the protective effect of nativity seems to vary according to age, psychiatric disorder, and ethnicity.