Depression, discrimination, trauma, and American Indian ethnic identity

Lisa G. Byers
School of Social Work, Washington University
July, 2005


Major depression is one of the most debilitating conditions experienced worldwide. The available research indicates that American Indians experience depressive disorders at higher rates than those reported by the general American population. Despite this disparity, the research on depression in tribal populations is severely inadequate. This dissertation utilizes multiple regression to perform a secondary analysis of data from a recently completed American Indian mental health study. The dissertation represents the first application of an integrative theory to the study of discrimination, ethnic identity, historical trauma, and individual trauma in relation to depression vulnerability. Multiple regression results indicate that traumatic distress, marginalized identity were significant predictors of current depressive symptom distress. Male respondents reported significantly more depressive symptom distress. The findings have implications for social work intervention and prevention programs to decrease the burden of depressive disorders for American Indians.