According to large nationally-representative epidemiologic surveys, Black individuals in the U.S. experience a lesser or equal prevalence of DSM-diagnosed major depression, relative to White individuals, despite experiencing greater exposure to major life stressors, a well-established cause of major depression. This finding, often referred to as the Black-White Depression Paradox, challenges our understanding of the factors that promote risk for depression and raises questions regarding our theories for how racialization should impact mental health. Though the paradox has been the subject of many studies, the drivers of the phenomenon remain unknown. In this talk, I will discuss evidence regarding existing hypothesized explanations for the paradox, as well as propose two possible causal structures that could explain the paradoxical findings. I will then present findings from analytic tests of these causal structures and discuss the ways in which the results can guide our search for the underlying cause of the paradox.
John R. Pamplin II is a Smart Cities Postdoctoral Associate and an Assistant Professor/Faculty fellow at NYU’s Center for Urban Science + Progress. John’s postdoctoral research focuses on understanding the racialized impact of policies (and their enforcement) that are designed to curb the opioid epidemic, as well as investigating the relationships between policy structures in urban settings (policing and criminal justice policy in particular) and the mental health of populations of color. Prior to joining CUSP, John received his PhD in Epidemiology from the Columbia University Mailman School of Public health, where he was a predoctoral fellow on the Department of Epidemiology’s Psychiatric Epidemiology Training grant (funded by the National Institute of Mental Health). John’s dissertation work was recognized by the department in 2020, when he received the William Farr Award for commitment to addressing the causes of social inequalities in health and promise in the field of Epidemiology. John also holds an MPH in Epidemiology from Columbia, a BS in Biology from Morehouse College, and currently serves as President-Elect of the Student and Postdoc Committee of the Society for Epidemiologic Research.