SSM Popul Health. 2020 Sep 4;12:100663. doi: 10.1016/j.ssmph.2020.100663. eCollection 2020 Dec.
This study evaluates whether the associations between social integration, inflammation, and depressive symptoms vary by race/ethnicity in the United States. Our study includes 5,634 respondents age 40 and older from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey for 2005-2008. We fit multivariate logistic regression models with interactions between C-reactive protein (CRP) and race/ethnicity as well as social integration and race/ethnicity to test our hypotheses. We find that social integration and CRP operate independently in their associations with depressive symptoms by race/ethnicity. Higher levels of social integration are associated with lower predicted probability of depressive symptoms for White and Black populations. This association is not statistically significant for the Hispanic population. CRP is associated with depressive symptoms for the White population, but not the Black or Hispanic populations. Our results suggest that studying depressive symptoms, and other mental health outcomes, among the US population without considering variation by race/ethnicity may restrict scholarly understanding of health disparities. Population-based assessments of associations between physiological processes or social integration should consider whether these variables operate differently by race/ethnicity and work to explain why differences may emerge. Furthermore, interventions aimed at social integration may improve mental health among older adults in the United States; especially for the least socially integrated.