Understanding differences in past year mental health disorders for Latinos living in the U.S. Social Science & Medicine, 65, 214-230

Center for Multicultural Mental Health Research, Cambridge Health Alliance, USA
Social Science & Medicine (Impact Factor: 2.89). 08/2007; 65(2):214-30. DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2007.03.026
Source: PubMed


This study seeks to identify risk factors for psychiatric disorders that may explain differences in nativity effects among adult Latinos in the USA. We evaluate whether factors related to the processes of acculturation and enculturation, immigration factors, family stressors and supports, contextual factors, and social status in the US account for differences in 12-month prevalence of psychiatric disorders for eight subgroups of Latinos. We report results that differentiate Latino respondents by country of origin and age at immigration (whether they were US-born or arrived before age 6: In-US-as-Child [IUSC]; or whether they arrived after age 6: later-arrival immigrants [LAI]). After age and gender adjustments, LAI Mexicans and IUSC Cubans reported a significantly lower prevalence of depressive disorders than IUSC Mexicans. Once we adjust for differences in family stressors, contextual factors and social status factors, these differences are no longer significant. The risk for anxiety disorders appears no different for LAI compared to IUSC Latinos, after age and gender adjustments. For substance use disorders, family factors do not offset the elevated risk of early exposure to neighborhood disadvantage, but coming to the US after age 25 does offset it. Family conflict and burden were consistently related to the risk of mood disorders. Our findings suggest that successful adaptation into the US is a multidimensional process that includes maintenance of family harmony, integration in advantageous US neighborhoods, and positive perceptions of social standing. Our results uncover that nativity may be a less important independent risk factor for current psychiatric morbidity than originally thought.

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    • "). Because effects begin in early childhood among later generations, and accumulate over the life-course, the burden of these social stressors may be heightened among later generations relative to immigrants arriving as adults (Alegria et al., 2007; Viruell-Fuentes, 2007). Therefore, to the extent that physical symptoms are positively associated with overall psychological distress, they may be more prominent among later generations. "
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    • "Family burden is assessed with a 2-item measure on frequency of demands and arguments with relatives. Family cultural conflict is a 5-item measure tapping respondents' intergenerational and cultural conflict with family members (Alegria et al., 2007c). "
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    • "Residence index was used as a measure of exposure to the American culture. Years in the USA minus age equaled the residence index (Alegria et al. 2007), with smaller numbers indicating greater acculturation. Therefore, the closer to zero or negative number, the greater was the acculturation. "
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