Discrimination Affects Immigrants' Mental Health

Researchers find strongest effects in immigrants of African descent, longer-term residents

TUESDAY, Oct. 3 (HealthDay News) -- Among black and Latino immigrants, racial and ethnic discrimination is associated with poor mental health status, according to a study published in the October issue of the American Journal of Public Health.

Gilbert C. Gee, Ph.D., of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and colleagues studied 666 New Hampshire residents, including 190 African descendants (78 U.S.-born, 26 Haitians, 20 Sudanese, 11 Jamaicans, 93 other), 202 Mexican-Americans, and 274 other Latinos from Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and South America.

The researchers found that self-reported discrimination was associated with a lower score on the Mental Component Summary (MCS12). They also found that the association between self-reported health care discrimination and lower MCS12 score was strongest for African descendants, followed by Mexican-Americans and other Latinos, and was stronger among longer-term residents than among recent immigrants.

"The finding that the relation between health care discrimination and mental health is stronger for immigrants who have lived in the United States longer is troubling, as it implies that discrimination may erode not only mental health, but also the resources available to racial/ethnic minorities to buffer against discrimination," the authors conclude. "These findings suggest that policies designed to reduce discrimination are not only a moral imperative, but also a key tool in protecting public health."

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