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. 2013 Dec;28(4):421-33.
doi: 10.1007/s10823-013-9211-8.

Illness Conceptualizations Among Older Rural Mexican-Americans With Anxiety and Depression

Free PMC article

Illness Conceptualizations Among Older Rural Mexican-Americans With Anxiety and Depression

Andrea M Letamendi et al. J Cross Cult Gerontol. .
Free PMC article


Research on barriers and utilization of mental health services in older ethnic minorities has been productive. However, little is known about the characterization and beliefs about anxiety and depression symptoms among older Mexican-Americans. Exploration of these conceptualizations will lead to better detection and provision of care to this large, yet underserved group. The present study used a mixed methods approach to explore conceptualizations of anxiety and depression in a group of rural older Mexican-Americans. Twenty-five Spanish-speaking participants (mean age 71.2) responded to flyers that solicited individuals who felt “tense or depressed.” Participants completed a structured diagnostic interview as well as self-report questionnaires about medical health, anxiety and depressive symptoms, and cognitive functioning. Qualitative interviews included questions about how participants describe, conceptualize, and cope with anxiety and depression symptoms. Sixty-eight percent of the sample met criteria for at least one anxiety or mood disorder with high comorbidity rates. Self-reported symptoms of depression, anxiety, and somatization were below clinical ranges for all participants. Medical illness, cognitive impairment, age, education, and acculturation were not associated with distress. Qualitative analyses revealed that nearly half of the terms used by the sample to describe distress phenomena deviated from Western labels traditionally used to indicate anxious and depressive symptomatology. Multiple methods of symptom endorsement demonstrated that older Mexican-Americans may report distress differently than detected by traditional self-report measures or common Western terminology. Understanding these additional illness conceptualizations may have implications for improving the detection of mental illness and increasing service use among this growing population.

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