The relationship between human agency and health is an important yet under-researched topic. This study uses a life course perspective to examine how human agency (measured by voluntariness, migratory reasons, and planning) and timing (measured by age at immigration) affect mental health outcomes among Asian immigrants in the United States. Data from the National Latino and Asian American Study showed that Asian immigrants (n=1491) with multiple strong reasons to migrate were less likely to suffer from mental health problems (i.e., psychological distress and psychiatric disorders in the past 12 months) than those without clear goals. Moreover, Asian immigrants with adequate migratory planning had lower levels of distress and lower rates of 12-month psychiatric disorders than those with poorly planned migration. Compared with migrants of the youngest age category (six or younger), those who migrated during preteen and adolescent years without clear goals had higher levels of psychological distress, and those who migrated during adulthood (25 years or older) were less likely to suffer from recent depressive disorders (with the exception of those migrating for life-improving goals). Furthermore, we found that well-planned migration lowered acculturative stress, and multiple strong reasons for migration buffered the negative effect of acculturative stress upon mental health. Findings from this study advance research on immigrant health from the life course perspective by highlighting the effects of exercising human agency during the pre-migration stage upon post-migration mental health.
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