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Keywords:

  • coping;
  • depression;
  • qualitative methodology;
  • women's mental health

Accessible summary

  • Little is known about older African American women's life experiences with depression. As a result, how they are dealing with depression is not known at this time.
  • This research examined older African American women's experiences with depression and how they are dealing with it.
  • Thirteen African American women aged 60 and older were interviewed about their experiences with depression.
  • Our findings show these older women think of depression as a normal reaction to difficult life situations, rather than an illness. As a result, the women did not see the need to get professional help for their depression.

Abstract

Little is known about older African American women's lived experiences with depression. What does depression mean to this group? What are they doing about their depression? Unfortunately, these questions are unanswered. This study examined older African American women's lived experiences with depression and coping behaviours. The common sense model provided the theoretical framework for present study. Thirteen community-dwelling African American women aged 60 and older (M = 71 years) participated. Using qualitative phenomenological data analysis, results showed the women held beliefs about factors that can cause depression including experiences of trauma, poverty and disempowerment. Results also indicated the women believed that depression is a normal reaction to life circumstances and did not see the need to seek professional treatment for depression. They coped by use of culturally sanctioned behaviours including religious practices and resilience. It appears these women's beliefs about depression and use of culturally sanctioned coping behaviours might potentially be a barrier to seeking professional mental healthcare, which could result in missed opportunities for early diagnosis and treatment of depression among this group. Implications for research, educational and clinical interventions are discussed.