Idioms of Distress Among Depressed White-Non-Mexican and Mexican-Origin Older Men

Ester Carolina Apesoa-Varano, Judith C. Barker, Jurgen Unutzer, Sergio Aguilar-Gaxiola, Megan Dwight Johnson, Cindy Tran, Peter Guarnaccia, Ladson Hinton

Publication Date: 07/01/2015

Older men are less likely than older women to receive depression treatment. Latino older men in particular have been found to have significantly lower rates of depression treatment than their white-non-Mexican (WNM) counterparts. Prior research has shown that men are less likely than women to express overt affect and/or report depression symptoms that may prompt primary care physicians’ inquiry about depression. Previous studies have overlooked the idioms of distress common among older men. This study investigates: a) the range of idioms of distress that emerge in the narratives of depressed older men, and b) the use of these idioms among depressed WNM and Mexican-origin older men. The present report is based on qualitative data collected through the Men’s Health and Aging Study (MeHAS), a mixed-method study of clinically depressed WNM and Mexican-origin older (65 and above) men recruited in primary care settings. Qualitative analysis of 77 interviews led to identification of idioms of distress and informed idiom categories. Study findings show that: a) both groups of men utilized a range of idioms of distress that met current DSM criteria for depression, b) both groups were also likely to utilize idioms that feel outside clinical depression criteria, and c) there were similarities as well as differences between WNM and Mexican-origin men. This study provides a larger vocabulary that clinicians might consider in recognizing depression and initiating depression care for older men from diverse ethnic backgrounds. This is important to improve depression care among older men in general and those of Mexican-origin in particular.