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UCD researchers receive grant to study depression and suicide in older men

Researchers at UC Davis have received a three-year, $725,000 grant from the National Institute on Mental Health to develop new, creative approaches to decreasing the burden of late-life depression and the risk of suicide among older men.

The study will be led by Ladson Hinton, a geriatric psychiatrist and professor in the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, who also directs the UC Davis Latino Aging Research Resource Center.

The study builds directly on an earlier, groundbreaking research, called “Reducing Disparities in Depression Care for Ethnically Diverse Older Men,” which identified gaps in service delivery and gender issues in late-life depression and suicide among older men.

“One of the most important findings from this study was older men’s preference for the involvement of family members in their depression care,” Hinton said. “This newly funded grant will allow us to develop an innovative and family-based intervention model to enhance the delivery of depression care to older men in primary care settings.”

Depression is one of the strongest risk factors for suicide, and men who kill themselves frequently have had a recent prior contact with their primary-care physicians. Older men are significantly less likely than women to receive effective depression treatment, a UCD news release said. The barriers to receiving care are not well understood, but include traditional masculine values and the fear of being stigmatized.

The study will be conducted in primary-care clinics at San Joaquin County General Hospital in French Camp. The earlier research identified family involvement as key to reducing older men’s risk of depression and suicide. A primary focus of the research will be engaging patients’ families in their care.

Hinton’s collaborators in the new endeavor at UCD will include Sergio Aguilar-Gaxiola, director, the UCD Center for Reducing Health Disparities; Ester Carolina Apesoa-Varano, assistant professor in the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing at UCD; and Richard Kravitz, professor and vice chair for research in the department of internal medicine.

Other collaborators include Ramiro Zuniga of San Joaquin General Hospital, Jürgen Unützer of the University of Washington in Seattle and Megan Dwight-Johnson of RAND in Los Angeles.

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