Understanding differences in past year psychiatric disorders for Latinos living in the US

Margarita Alegria, Patrick E. Shrout, Meghan Woo, Peter Guarnaccia, William Sribney, Doryliz Vila, Antonio Polo, Zhun Cao, Norah Mulvaney-Day, Maria Torres, Glorisa Canino

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)214-230
Number of pages17
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jul 2007


  • Acculturation
  • Culture
  • Epidemiology
  • Immigrants
  • Latinos
  • Psychiatric diagnosis
  • Race
  • USA

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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