Maintaining Weight May Relieve Depression in Black Women
Research shows that women are twice as likey as men to suffer from depression and that more than one in seven African American women suffer from major depression. Black women who have depression are also less likely to receive treatment than are white women at a ratio of 39.7 percent vs. 54 percent. Those African American women who do seek treatment are less likely to receive the nature of care recorded in clinical practice guidelines. Furthermore, it has been discovered that those with an income that falls beneath the poverty level are three times more likely to suffer frrom depression.
While caucasian women suffer from depression more often than do African American women, black females exeprience a greater degree of severity and persistence. The African American history in the United States has promoted emotional avoidance to the point where it has become a cultural habit. Add to that the stressors of being both black and female, African American women are easily more vulnerable to negative attitudes and behaviors.
Black women are also severely obese more often than other racial groups and more subject to obesity-related diseases, like diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Different studies have also found that black women have a harder time losing weight than do other groups. It is suspected that weight-related sociocultural norms, diet and physical activity, and socioeconomic stressors all contribute to the difficulties experienced by black women who are trying to lose weight.
One curiosity that exists is that white and Hispanic women with a higher socioeconomic status and higher degree of education have something of a buffer against obesity rates. However, the same cannot be said for black women. All segments of the female African American population seem to be confronted with the problem of obesity.
The Shape Program
Using software that was built by researchers at Duke University, personalized interventions for weight gain prevention were created for 91 women in one of two groups. A control group of 94 subjects received usual care from physicians. The study group had behavioral goals tracked weekly via weekly phone calls over a 12-month period, as well as monthly calls from a personal health coach. Some participants also put to use a YMCA membership.
All study participants were low-income black women between the ages of 25-44 who had a body mass index of 25-35. The goal of the program was to help women maintain their weight than to lose weight.
At the onset of the study, 19 percent of the intervention group and 21 percent of the control group reported moderate to severe depression. At the 12-month mark, 11 percent of the intervention group reported feeling depressed, while the control group number remained at 19 percent. After 18 months, the intervention group improved yet again with only 10 percent of the participants reporting feelings of depression. The control group held at 19 percent.
The findings in the study were independent from how well the women did in the weight management program, or whether or not they were taking medication for depression.
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