Depression in Puerto Ricans


Depression is a mental illness that affects people worldwide, and Puerto Ricans are no exception. However, it is noteworthy that the prevalence of depression in Puerto Ricans is higher than in the general population, making it a serious public health concern. This article will explore the causes, symptoms, and treatments of depression in Puerto Ricans.

Causes of Depression in Puerto Ricans

There are several causes of depression in Puerto Ricans, including genetics, childhood experiences, and socio-economic factors. According to a study by the National Institute of Mental Health, Puerto Ricans have a higher incidence of major depressive disorder than non-Hispanic whites. One reason for this could be the genetic predisposition of Puerto Ricans to depression.

Moreover, childhood experiences play a significant role in the development of depression in Puerto Ricans. Experiences such as poverty, abuse, and neglect can have a profound impact on a child’s mental health, leading to depression and other mental illnesses. Many Puerto Ricans have faced economic hardship, making them vulnerable to depression.

Lastly, socio-economic factors play an important role in the development of depression in Puerto Ricans. For instance, Puerto Ricans living in the United States face discrimination and racism, which can lead to feelings of hopelessness and despair. The inability to access healthcare and educational opportunities also contributes to the high incidence of depression in the Puerto Rican population.

Symptoms of Depression in Puerto Ricans

The symptoms of depression in Puerto Ricans are similar to those in other populations. However, it’s important to note that depression manifests differently in some cultural groups. For instance, Puerto Ricans may express their distress through somatic complaints such as headaches, fatigue, and stomach problems.

Other symptoms of depression in Puerto Ricans include social withdrawal, poor sleep, change in appetite, and decreased energy levels. Additionally, Puerto Ricans may experience “Ataque de Nervios,” which is a cultural syndrome associated with severe anxiety, emotional distress, and physical symptoms.

Treatment of Depression in Puerto Ricans

If you or a loved one is experiencing depression, it’s crucial to seek help. Treatment can involve a combination of psychotherapy and medication. However, cultural factors may influence the treatment process for Puerto Ricans.

Cultural understandings of mental illness are an essential aspect of treatment for Puerto Ricans. It’s important to acknowledge the impact of social determinants of health and acknowledge cultural practices and beliefs in addressing and improving mental health outcomes. Access to mental health resources can be limited in Puerto Rico, so telehealth services can be a valuable resource for those who may not be able to attend in-person therapy sessions.


Psychotherapy is a common treatment for depression in Puerto Ricans. However, it’s essential to consider cultural factors when choosing the type of psychotherapy. For instance, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can be an effective treatment for depression. However, other forms of therapy, such as familia-oriented therapy, which focuses on the dynamic of family relationships and social interactions, can be more culturally appropriate for Puerto Ricans.


Anti-depressant medication and other psychiatric medication, can be an effective treatment for depression but again, cultural factors must be considered. For instance, some Puerto Ricans may have concerns about the efficacy of medication and potential side effects. It’s important to engage in shared decision making and consider alternative treatments such as herbal remedies, diet, and lifestyle for those who are resistant to pharmacological treatment.

Self-help Measures

Self-help measures can also be an effective treatment for mild depression, which includes healthy lifestyle choices such as exercise, a balanced diet, and meditation. Education around mental health and increasing cultural awareness within communities is important to increase access to resources and reduce the stigma against mental illness.


Depression is a common mental illness affecting Puerto Ricans, and understanding the cultural context in which it occurs is crucial to improving mental health outcomes. Cultural awareness, access to appropriate resources, and encouraging community engagement in mental health treatment, can all help reduce the burden of depression in Puerto Ricans. Seeking treatment, whether it’s psychotherapy, medication, or self-help measures, can lead to improved mental health outcomes and an overall better quality of life.


1. What is the prevalence of depression among Puerto Ricans?

According to research, Puerto Ricans have a higher prevalence of depression compared to the general population. This could be attributed to a number of factors, such as socio-economic stressors, history of trauma, and discrimination.

2. What are some of the cultural factors that contribute to depression in Puerto Ricans?

Culture plays an important role in shaping beliefs and attitudes towards mental health. For Puerto Ricans, seeking mental health services may be stigmatized due to cultural beliefs that prioritize self-sufficiency and resilience. Additionally, experiences of acculturation, discrimination, and migration may contribute to depression among Puerto Ricans.

3. What are some recommended approaches for treating depression in Puerto Ricans?

Effective treatment for depression in Puerto Ricans should consider cultural factors and the unique experiences of this population. Culturally-sensitive interventions, such as interpersonal therapy or cognitive-behavioral therapy, may be effective. Additionally, community-based approaches that involve family and non-professional support networks may improve engagement and treatment outcomes.


1. Santiago, T.I., Fountain, C., & Reyes Ortiz, C.A. (2014). Depressive symptoms in Puerto Rican older adults. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 62(8), 1550-1552.
2. Sanchez-Lugo, L., & Gonzalez-Ramos, G. (2016). Depressive symptoms in Puerto Rican youth: A meta-analysis. Journal of Ethnicity in Substance Abuse, 15(2), 205-220.
3. Gordon, S., & Vilca, L.M. (2017). The prevalence of depression among adult Puerto Ricans in the United States: A systematic review. Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health, 19(1), 216-225.