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Child Psychiatrist /Adult Psychiatrist

Five Key Findings on Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders by Race/Ethnicity

Updated: Dec 8, 2023



Summary



Over two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, many people continue to grapple with worsened mental health associated with the prolonged impact of the pandemic, including social distancing, income loss, and death and illness. In 2020, 33% of all nonelderly adults

reported having a mental illness or substance use disorder. Drug overdose deaths have increased over time – particularly during the pandemic – and these increases have disproportionately affected people of color. Following a period of increases, suicide deaths slowed in 2019 and 2020, although they have increased faster among people of color than White people. Drawing on a series of recent KFF analyses, this brief presents five key findings on mental health and substance use concerns by race/ethnicity. It finds:


Five Key Findings on Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders by Race/Ethnicity

a group of hands with clenched fists

  • Rates of death by suicide are rising faster among people of color compared to their White counterparts.

  • The recent rise in deaths associated with drug overdoses has disproportionately affected people of color.

  • Overall rates of mental illness and substance use disorder are lower for people of color compared to White people but may be underdiagnosed among people of color.

  • People of color have experienced worsening mental health during the pandemic.

  • People of color face disproportionate barriers to accessing mental health care.

Rapidly rising rates of deaths by suicide and drug overdose among people of color, along with disproportionate impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, further underscore inequities in access to mental health care and treatment and highlight the importance of centering equity in diagnostics, care, and treatment.


Key Findings


Rates of death by suicide are rising faster among people of color compared to their White counterparts.


Between 2010 and 2020, Black and American Indian or Alaska Native (AIAN) people experienced the largest increases in rates of death by suicide (Figure 1). AIAN and White people continue to experience the highest rates of deaths by suicide compared to all other racial and ethnic groups (23.9 and 16.8 per 100,000 in 2020, respectively). However, people of color are experiencing the largest increases in rates of death by suicide. AIAN and Black people experienced the largest absolute increases in suicide death rates (7.0 and 2.3 percentage points, respectively) from 2010 to 2020 (Figure 1). Moreover, Black and Hispanic people had larger percentage increases in their suicide death rates compared to White people over the same period (at 43% and 27%, respectively, compared to 12%).


a screenshot of a graph

Between 2010 and 2020, suicide-related death rates among adolescents more than doubled for Asian adolescents and nearly doubled for Black and Hispanic adolescents (Figure 1). However, similar to the overall population data, AIAN adolescents accounted for the highest rates of deaths by suicide, over three times higher than White adolescents (22.7 vs. 6.3 per 100,000). In contrast, Black, Hispanic, and Asian adolescents had lower rates of suicide deaths compared to their White peers. Suicide remains the second leading cause of death among adolescents overall.


The recent rise in deaths associated with drug overdoses has disproportionately affected people of color.


Drug overdose death rates increased across all racial and ethnic groups in recent years, but these increases were larger for people of color compared to their White counterparts. Reflecting these increases, drug overdose death rates among Black people surpassed rates of White people by 2020 (35.4 versus 32.8 per 100,000) (Figure 2). However, AIAN people continued to experience the highest rates of drug overdose deaths (41.9 per 100,000 in 2020) compared with all other racial and ethnic groups. Among adolescents, deaths due to drug overdose nearly doubled in 2020 and disproportionately affected adolescents of color. Further, it is possible that deaths by suicide are being undercounted due to misclassifications as drug overdose deaths. Fentanyl-related deaths, which have accounted for many drug overdose deaths during the pandemic, may be disproportionately affecting Black communities.


a graph of the drug overdose


White people continue to account for the largest share of deaths due to drug overdose, but people of color are accounting for a growing share of these deaths over time. Between 2015 and 2020, the share of drug overdose deaths among White people fell, while at the same time the shares of these deaths among Black and Hispanic people rose. As a result of this increase, Black people accounted for a disproportionate share of drug overdose deaths relative to their share of the total population in 2020 (17% vs. 13%) (Figure 3). Similarly, reflecting an increase in deaths over the period, Hispanic adolescents accounted for a disproportionate share of drug overdose deaths relative to their share of the population as of 2020 (30% vs. 25%). These recent trends are contributing to emerging disparities in drug overdose deaths among some people of color, which may worsen if they continue.


Full article - Source: Kaiser Family Foundation



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