Differences in Professional and Informal Help Seeking Among Older African Americans, Black Caribbeans, and Non-Hispanic Whites

Journal of the Society for Social Work and Research 12/2010; 1(3):124-139. DOI: 10.5243/jsswr.2010.10
Source: PubMed


This study uses a national probability sample of older adults to examine racial and ethnic differences in the use of professional services and informal support for a stressful personal problem. Using data from the National Survey of American Life, this study focuses on African Americans, Black Caribbean immigrants, and Whites aged 55 years and older who experienced a personal problem that caused them significant distress (n=862). Multinomial logistic regression is used to estimate the association of race with the use of professional services only, informal support only, both professional services and informal support, or no help at all, while controlling for demographic and socioeconomic variables, characteristics of the informal support network, the type of problem experienced, and experiences of racial discrimination. Examining the use of professional services and informal support provides a more complete picture of racial and ethnic differences of help-seeking behaviors among older adults, and the factors associated with the sources from which these adults request help. Most respondents use informal support alone or in combination with professional services. Black Caribbeans are more likely than African Americans to rely on informal support only, whereas African Americans are more likely than Whites to not receive help. However, these findings are accounted for by differences in social support and experiences of discrimination.

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