English Proficiency, Birthplace Affect Asian Mental Health Outcomes in the U.S., Study Says
English language proficiency among Asian men and the birthplace among Asian women affect their mental health, according to a study in the American Journal of Public Health, the Pakistan Daily Times Monitor reports. For the report, lead author David Takeuchi, a sociologist and social work professor at the University of Washington, and colleagues used a World Health Organization questionnaire to determine Asian immigrants' mental health incidents in the past year and history of depression, anxiety, phobias, post traumatic stress disorder, substance and alcohol abuse, and eating disorders in Asian immigrants to the U.S. The study found that:
- Asian men with good or excellent English skills are less likely to have mental health problems than those with poorer English proficiency;
- Asian women born in Asian countries were far less likely to suffer from depression, anxiety, substance abuse or psychiatric disorder in their lifetime than those born in the U.S.;
- Fewer than one in four Asian Americans has a mental health disorder;
- Asian immigrants who moved to the U.S. at elementary school-age learn English easier than older children but are at more risk to develop a substance use disorder;
- Asian men born in Asian countries were less likely to have a substance use disorder than those born in the U.S.;
- American-born Asian women were twice as likely to have a depressive disorder as those born in Asian countries; and
- There were no significant differences between the main immigrant groups -- Chinese, Filipinos and Vietnamese.
Takeuchi said, "Compared to all Americans, Asian Americans had lower lifetime rates of any disorder. However, that won't necessarily be the case for their children and grandchildren. If trends continue, rates for them will go up, and that suggests that more investment is needed for prevention programs" (Pakistan Daily Times Monitor, 12/2).
An abstract of the study is available online.
In related news, the AP/Monterey County Herald on Sunday examined how many low-income immigrants and their families have problems with access to mental health treatment because of "a language barrier and a deep cultural divide." The National Latino and Asian-American Study, conducted in December 2003 with funds from the National Institute of Mental Health, found that Hispanic and Asian immigrants had a lower rate of mental health problems than native U.S. residents but sought treatment for their problems less often. According to a report released in 2001 by the Office of the Surgeon General, racial and ethnic minorities often fail to seek mental health treatment because of an inability to speak English and a lack of health insurance. The report noted that 37% of Hispanics lack health insurance and that fewer than one in 20 with mental health problems sought treatment from mental health specialists. In addition, the report found that Asian-Pacific Islanders were less likely to seek mental health treatment or discuss mental health problems with friends or relatives than whites. The report recommended increased research, geographic distribution of mental health providers and availability of treatments customized for patients to address the "striking disparities in knowledge, access, utilization, and quality of mental health care for racial and ethnic minorities." According to the AP/County Herald, many immigrants also fail to seek mental health treatment because of "time-honored biases about psychological problems" (Barbassa, AP/Monterey County Herald, 12/3).
The report is available online.