A long way from home: comparing mental health measures between foreign and U.S.-born Latinos in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA)

J Health Care Poor Underserved. 2012 Nov;23(4):1719-32. doi: 10.1353/hpu.2012.0168.


Background: Studies exploring the relationship between foreign-born status and mental health among Latinos in the United States have varied in their conclusions. We examined 2000-2002 MESA data on Latinos and compared responses between immigrants and non-immigrants on the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression (CES-D) scale and the Spielberger anxiety and anger scales.

Methods: We used logistic and linear regression to examine whether immigrant status was associated with these psychological outcomes in Latinos-overall, Mexicans-only and Other-Latinos (non-Mexicans).

Results: Compared with U.S.-born Latinos, foreign-born Latinos had significantly higher odds of meeting CES-D caseness- a score above 16, classifying depressive symptoms (p≤.05), higher anger scores (p≤.001) and a trend towards higher anxiety. These associations were similar within the Mexicans-only subgroup.

Discussion: When examining self-reported distress symptoms as outcomes, our findings do not coincide with the paradoxical effect of immigration on mental health. Furthermore, associations between immigrant status and psychological outcomes differed among the Latino subgroups.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anger
  • Anxiety / epidemiology
  • Anxiety / ethnology
  • Atherosclerosis / epidemiology
  • Depression / epidemiology
  • Depression / ethnology
  • Emigrants and Immigrants / psychology*
  • Emigrants and Immigrants / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Hispanic Americans / psychology*
  • Hispanic Americans / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Linear Models
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Mental Health / ethnology*
  • Mental Health / statistics & numerical data
  • Mexican Americans / psychology
  • Mexican Americans / statistics & numerical data
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • United States / epidemiology
  • United States / ethnology