Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Some U.S.-Born Hispanics at Higher Risk of Disorders

Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Some U.S.-Born Hispanics at Higher Risk of Disorders

Article excerpt

Mexican-American immigrants to the United States are far less likely than U.S.-born Mexican Americans to suffer from psychiatric disorders, lending credence to the theory that traditional cultural roles and ties to the "old country" are reassuring, protective environmental forces.

A major study drawn from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism's Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions raises important questions about the impact of acculturation on the mental health of the nation's largest ethnic population, as well as other immigrants and their descendants.

"To our knowledge, this study is the first to show that, with few exceptions, foreign-born Mexican Americans and foreign-born non-Hispanic whites were at significantly lower risk of DSM-IV disorders compared with their U.S.-born counterparts," wrote Bridget F. Grant, Ph.D., chief of the laboratory of biometry and epidemiology at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, Bethesda, Md. (Arch. Gen. Psychiatry 2004;61:1226-33).

Specifically, immigrants were less likely than were their U.S.-born counterparts to suffer from alcohol and drug use disorders, major depression, dysthymia, mania, hypomania, panic disorder, social and specific phobia, and generalized anxiety disorders.

Dr. Grant and her associates said their findings unveiled a "rather remarkable pattern," hinted at in previous studies clouded by methodologic problems that prevented comparisons of Mexican-American immigrants with large numbers of U.S.-born individuals with similar ancestral roots.

The current study drew on extensive diagnostic personal interviews conducted with 43,093 respondents by approximately 1,800 professional interviewers, many of whom were fluent in Spanish.

Subjects included 4,558 people who identified themselves as being of Chicano, Mexican, or Mexican American descent. About half were born in the United States and half in Mexico. Also included in the analysis were responses from 24,803 non-Hispanic white respondents, 94% of whom were born in the United States and 6% of whom were immigrants.

Mexican Americans were less educated and had lower incomes. In addition, they were more likely to live in urban areas and the West than were non-Hispanic whites in the survey.

Within the Mexican American cohort, individuals born in the United States were more educated and financially secure than were their immigrant counterparts, yet their mental health was profoundly less robust. In addition, foreign-born Mexican Americans were more likely to be married than were their U.S.-born counterparts (73.4% vs. 55.3%).

The lifetime prevalence of any DSM-IV disorder among U.S.-born Mexican Americans was 47.6%, compared with 28.5% among foreign-born Mexican Americans--the latter, a rate comparable with that seen in residents of Mexico City. …

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