Depressive symptomatology and mental health help-seeking patterns of U.S.- and foreign-born mothers

Matern Child Health J. 2007 May;11(3):257-67. doi: 10.1007/s10995-006-0168-x. Epub 2006 Dec 15.


Objectives: This report presents the national estimates of maternal depressive symptomatology prevalence and its socio-demographic correlates among major racial/ethnic-nativity groups in the United States. We also examined the relationship of mental health-seeking patterns by race/ethnicity and nativity.

Methods: Using the Early Childhood Longitudinal Survey-Birth Cohort Nine-month data, we present the distribution of Center for Epidemiological Study-Depression (CES-D) score by new mothers' nativity and race/ethnicity. The mental health-seeking pattern study was limited to mothers with moderate to severe symptoms. Weighted prevalence and 95% confidence intervals for depression score categories were presented by race/ethnic groups and nativity. Multi-variable logistic regression was used to obtain the adjusted odds ratios of help-seeking patterns by race/ethnicity and nativity in mothers with moderate to severe symptoms.

Results: Compared to foreign-born mothers, mothers born in the U.S. were more likely to have moderate to severe depressive symptoms in every racial/ethnic group except for Asian/Pacific Islanders. These US-born mothers were also more likely to be teenagers, lack a partner at home, and live in rural areas. Among Asians, Filipina mothers had the highest rate of severe depressive symptoms (9.6%), similar to those of US-born black mothers (10.2%). Racial/ethnic minorities and foreign-born mothers were less likely to consult doctors (OR: 2.2 to 2.5) or think they needed consultation (OR: 1.9 to 2.2) for their emotional problems compare to non-Hispanic White mothers.

Conclusion: Our research suggests that previous "global estimates" on Asian American mental health underestimated sub-ethnic group differences. More efforts are needed to overcome the barriers in mental health services access and utilizations, especially in minority and foreign-born populations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child of Impaired Parents
  • Cohort Studies
  • Depression / ethnology*
  • Depression / therapy
  • Depression, Postpartum / ethnology*
  • Depression, Postpartum / therapy
  • Emigration and Immigration*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Logistic Models
  • Mental Health Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Mothers / psychology*
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / ethnology*
  • Prevalence
  • Residence Characteristics
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States / epidemiology