Addictive behaviors and depression among African Americans residing in a public housing community

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Numerous studies have indicated that there is an association between cigarette smoking, alcohol use, and depression. However, little attention has been devoted to understanding how demographic factors, such as socioeconomic status and ethnicity, influence these relationships. To address this gap in the literature, cigarette and alcohol use were examined in a sample of African Americans from an urban area. A single public-housing community in Washington, DC was selected for complete ascertainment of the adult population. A total of 126 African American subjects were recruited. Semi-structured interviews were conducted to assess depressive symptoms and to characterize cigarette and alcohol use patterns. Cigarette smoking was not related to the severity of depressive symptoms. By contrast, increased symptoms of depression were related to alcohol use patterns. Light drinkers had a mean score of 5.77 on the Centers for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale, compared to a mean of 8.30 for abstainers and 10.07 for heavy drinkers (F = 4.968, p < .003). An analysis of patterns of substance use revealed that subjects were more likely to either abstain from both substances (30.2%) or to use both substances (32.5%) (χ2 = 8.516, df = 1, p < .004). It is unclear which specific processes work to link alcohol use and depressive symptoms in this group of urban African Americans from a low-income community. What is clear is that alcohol use is clearly related to depressive symptoms in the sample. It is hypothesized that both self-medicating processes and substance-induced depressive symptoms may be responsible for these findings. Important factors to consider in developing effective intervention programs that target this specific population are discussed. Copyright (C) 2000 Elsevier Science Ltd.

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