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Prevalence of Mood Disorders and Service Use Among US Mothers by Race and Ethnicity: Results From the National Survey of American Life

J Clin Psychiatry 2011;72(11):1538-1545

Objective: To describe the rates of mood disorders, the social and demographic correlates of mood disorders, and mental health services utilization among African American, Caribbean black, and non-Hispanic white mothers.

Method: Study data were collected between February 2001 and June 2003 as part of the National Survey of American Life: Coping With Stress in the 21st Century. National household probability samples of African Americans and Caribbean blacks were surveyed using a slightly modified World Mental Health version of the World Health Organization Composite International Diagnostic Interview. Participants included 2,019 African American, 799 Caribbean black, and 400 non-Hispanic white mothers 18 years and older (N = 3,218). The main outcomes measured were lifetime and 12-month diagnoses of DSM-IV mood disorders (major depressive episode, dysthymic disorder, bipolar I and II disorders) and mental health services utilization.

Results: The lifetime prevalence estimate of mood disorders is higher for white mothers (21.67%) than for African American mothers (16.77%) and Caribbean black mothers (16.42%); however, 12-month mood disorder estimates are similar across groups. African American mothers have higher 12-month prevalence estimates of bipolar disorder (2.48%) than white mothers (0.59%) and Caribbean black mothers (1.16%). African American mothers with higher education levels and white mothers who became parents as teenagers are more likely to have a lifetime mood disorder. Less than half (45.8%) of black mothers with a past 12-month mood disorder diagnosis utilized mental health services. Among black mothers with a 12-month diagnosis of bipolar disorder, Caribbean blacks utilized mental health services at higher rates than African Americans.

Conclusions: Demographic correlates for mood disorders varied by race and ethnicity. The findings illustrated underutilization of treatment by black mothers, especially African American mothers with bipolar disorder.

J Clin Psychiatry

Submitted: August 3, 2010; accepted January 3, 2011.

Online ahead of print: August 23, 2011 (doi:10.4088/JCP.10m06468).

Corresponding author: Rhonda C. Boyd, PhD, Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, 3535 Market St, Ste 1230, Philadelphia, PA 19104 (