Psychotropic medication nonadherence among United States Latinos: a comprehensive literature review

Psychiatr Serv. 2009 Feb;60(2):157-74. doi: 10.1176/


Objective: Psychotropic medication nonadherence is a major public health problem, but few studies have focused on Latinos. The authors systematically reviewed the literature on rates of and factors influencing antipsychotic, antidepressant, and mood stabilizer nonadherence among U.S. Latinos.

Methods: MEDLINE and PsycINFO were searched by using the keywords adherence, compliance, Latino, Hispanic, psychotropic, and related terms; bibliographies from relevant reviews and studies were also searched. Twenty-one studies met inclusion criteria: published since 1980 in English or Spanish and measured psychotropic medication nonadherence rates among U.S. Latino adults. Information was extracted about study design and objective, location, population, medication type, participant demographic characteristics, adherence measures, adherence rates, and factors related to adherence.

Results: In the 17 studies that included Latinos and other minority groups, mean nonadherence rates were 41%, 31%, and 43%, respectively, among Latinos, Euro-Americans, and African Americans, with an overall effect size of .64 between Latinos and Euro-Americans. In the four studies that included only Latinos, the mean nonadherence rate was 44%. Ten of 16 studies found that Latinos had significantly lower adherence rates than Euro-Americans. Risk factors for nonadherence included being a monolingual Spanish speaker, lacking health insurance, experiencing access barriers to high-quality care, and having lower socioeconomic status. Protective factors included family support and psychotherapy.

Conclusions: Rates of nonadherence to psychotropic medications were found to be higher for Latinos than for Euro-Americans. Further investigation is needed to understand the potentially modifiable individual and society-level mechanisms of this discrepancy. Clinical and research interventions to improve adherence should be culturally appropriate and incorporate identified factors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Hispanic or Latino*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Compliance / ethnology*
  • Psychotropic Drugs / therapeutic use*
  • United States
  • Young Adult


  • Psychotropic Drugs