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Journal Article


Assari S, Smith J, Bazargan M. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2019; 16(10): e16101670.


Department of Family Medicine, University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA.


(Copyright © 2019, MDPI: Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute)






Background. Although chronic medical conditions (CMCs), depression, and self-rated health (SRH) are associated, their associations may depend on race, ethnicity, gender, and their intersections. In predominantly White samples, SRH is shown to better reflect the risk of mortality and multimorbidity for men than it is for women, which suggests that poor SRH among women may be caused not only by CMCs, but also by conditions like depression and social relations-a phenomenon known as "the sponge hypothesis." However, little is known about gender differences in the links between multimorbidity, depression, and SRH among African Americans (AAs).

Objective. To study whether depression differently mediates the association between multimorbidity and SRH for economically disadvantaged AA men and women.

Methods. This survey was conducted in South Los Angeles between 2015 to 2018. A total number of 740 AA older adults (age ≥ 55 years) were enrolled in this study, of which 266 were AA men and 474 were AA women. The independent variable was the number of CMCs. The dependent variable was SRH. Age and socioeconomic status (educational attainment and marital status) were covariates. Depression was the mediator. Gender was the moderator. Structural Equation Modeling (SEM) was used to analyze the data.

Results. In the pooled sample that included both genders, depression partially mediated the effect of multimorbidity on SRH. In gender specific models, depression fully mediated the effects of multimorbidity on SRH for AA men but not AA women. For AA women but not AA men, social isolation was associated with depression.

Conclusion. Gender differences exist in the role of depression as an underlying mechanism behind the effect of multimorbidity on the SRH of economically disadvantaged AA older adults. For AA men, depression may be the reason people with multimorbidity report worse SRH. For AA women, depression is only one of the many reasons individuals with multiple CMCs report poor SRH. Prevention of depression may differently influence the SRH of low-income AA men and women with multimorbidity.

Language: en


African Americans; Blacks; chronic medical conditions; depression; ethnic groups; gender; race; self-rated health


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