Latinos and mental health
Introduction (Psychology and Mental Health)
Roughly 14 percent of the United States population—43 million people—identify themselves as Hispanic or Latino. Latinos are an ethnically and racially diverse group made up of people descended from a number of countries, including Mexico, Puerto Rico, Cuba, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Peru, Chile, Argentina, and several other Central and South American nations. Mexican Americans make up the largest percentage of Latinos (64 percent), followed by Puerto Ricans (12 percent).
The term “Hispanic” refers to those persons having Spanish ancestry and was first used in the United States Census in the 1970’s. The term “Latino” is derived from American Spanish and is embraced by many in the Latino community because it refers to their Latin and American heritage. The U.S. government officially adopted the term “Latino” in 1997 and used it to replace the designation of Hispanic on the census forms. Not all Latinos use this term to self-identify. Although “Latino” is becoming the preferred terminology for referring to this group, the terms “Latino” and “Hispanic” are often used interchangeably. Neither term refers to a racial category because Latinos come from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds. However, society often treats Latinos as both an ethnic minority and a racial group. Like members of racial groups, Latinos are often subjected to discrimination.
Latinos are a growing segment of the...
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Latino Mental Health (Psychology and Mental Health)
Latino mental health is influenced by multiple factors, including immigrant versus nonimmigrant status, the absence or presence of a familial support system, acculturative stress (psychological stress associated with adapting to a new cultural group and new cultural values), socioeconomic status, access to health care and other basic resources, and exposure to trauma. Mental health issues may manifest differently in native-born than in immigrant Latinos. Immigrant Latinos have been found to experience fewer mental disorders than their native-born Latino counterparts do. Higher rates of affective disorders, anxiety disorders, and chemical use and dependency have been found among native-born Latinos than in immigrants.
Acculturation refers to the level of competency an individual from another culture or ethnic group gains in a second culture. Becoming acculturated, however, does not mean abandoning the original culture. Usually, the old and new culture and values are blended. Research suggests that as Latinos from various backgrounds become more acculturated, they often experience a decline in mental health. This can be the result of stressful experiences during the process of acculturation, such as loss of a familial support system, discrimination by society, intergenerational conflict, loss of Latino cultural values, devaluation of Latino cultural values by society, feelings of isolation, and attempts at developing a...
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Contributing Socioeconomic Factors (Psychology and Mental Health)
It is important to understand the social, political, and economic factors that influence Latinos in the United States. These factors significantly affect the types of mental distress experienced by this population. Although most Latinos are not poor, a disproportionate number are impoverished relative to their numbers in the population. Twenty-two percent of Latino families, compared with 13 percent of American families as a whole and 8 percent of non-Hispanic whites, live in poverty. Latinos also have higher unemployment rates (5.6 percent) when compared with whites (4.1 percent). There is a correlation between socioeconomic status and diagnosed mental health disorders. Higher rates of mental illness are correlated with poverty, rates of violence, and little attention to mental health treatment. Approximately 34 percent of Latinos do not have health insurance, which limits their access to adequate health care. These demographic conditions significantly affect rates of mental illness within the Latino population.
Latino utilization of mental health services varies. Immigrant Latinos use mental health services less than their nonimmigrant counterparts do. Latinos are more likely to seek mental health services from clergy or general health care practitioners and far less likely to seek services from mental health professionals. However, when community-based mental health resources are available, Latinos are...
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Rates of Mental Illness (Psychology and Mental Health)
Latinos are identified as a high-risk group for depression, anxiety, and substance abuse. Latino women have a higher rate of depression (46 percent) than Latino men (19.6 percent). Rates of mental illness, especially substance abuse, among U.S.-born and long-term U.S. residents are higher than those in recently immigrated Latinos.
Latino youth are more likely than white or African American youths to have experimented with alcohol and binge drinking. Latino youth also are more likely than their counterparts in other ethnic groups to consider or to commit suicide. Finally, domestic violence is also an issue faced by this population, although specific rates are not known.
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Health Disparities (Psychology and Mental Health)
Latinos are diagnosed with diabetes and cardiovascular disease at significantly higher rates than those of their white counterparts. These medical conditions have been linked to genetic factors as well as the high levels of stress often experienced by Latinos. In 2005, acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) was the fourth leading cause of death among male and female Latinos aged thirty-five to forty-four. In addition, although Latinos make up only 15 percent of the U.S. population, they accounted for 17 percent of all new infections with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in 2006. HIV and AIDS have been found to contribute to depressive symptoms and other mental health issues in this population.
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Sources for Further Study (Psychology and Mental Health)
Atkinson, Donald R., ed. Counseling American Minorities. 6th ed. Boston: McGraw Hill, 2004. Contains chapters on the physical and mental health concerns of Latinos as well as demographic variables that describe them. Also provides readers with a brief historical overview of many distinct Latino groups.
Chabran, Richard, and Rafael Chabran, eds. The Latino Encyclopedia. 6 vols. Tarrytown, N.Y.: Marshall Cavendish, 1996. This encyclopedia explores the experiences of Latinos, especially Mexican Americans, in the United States. It reviews some of the struggles this population has had to face in establishing identities in the United States.
Kanellos, Nicolás, and Claudio Esteva-Fabregat. Handbook of Hispanic Cultures in the United States. 4 vols. Houston: Arte Público Press, 1994. This is a comprehensive reference publication reviewing Latino culture in four areas: history, anthropology, literature and art, and sociology. Specific subjects reviewed include the structure of the Latino family, sociopolitical factors contributing to the Latino experience in the United States, and an exploration of gender identity and gender roles within the Latino community.
Organista, Kurt C. Solving Latino Psychosocial and Health Problems: Theory, Practice, and Populations. Hoboken, N.J.: John Wiley & Sons, 2007. Contains both background on the various Latino communities in the...
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