Objectives: Hispanics are the fastest growing ethnic/racial group of the older adult population in the United States, yet little is known about positive mental health in this group. We examined differences in life satisfaction between demographically matched groups of older Hispanics and non-Hispanic Whites, and sought to identify specific factors associated with these differences
Methods: Participants included 126 community-dwelling English-speaking Hispanics aged 50 and older, and 126 age-, gender-, and education-matched non-Hispanic Whites. Participants completed standardized measures of life satisfaction and postulated correlates, including physical, cognitive, emotional and social functioning, as well as positive psychological traits and religiosity/spirituality.
Results: Hispanics reported greater life satisfaction than non-Hispanic Whites (p < 0.001). Ethnic groups were comparable on most postulated correlates of life satisfaction, except that Hispanics had lower levels of cognitive performance, and higher levels of daily spiritual experiences, private religious practices and compassion (ps < 0.001). Among these factors, spiritual experiences, religious practices, and compassion were significantly associated with life satisfaction in the overall sample. Multivariable analyses testing the influence of these three factors on the association between ethnicity and life satisfaction showed that higher spirituality among Hispanics accounted for ethnic differences in life satisfaction.
Conclusion: English-speaking Hispanics aged 50 and older appeared to be more satisfied with their lives than their non-Hispanic White counterparts, and these differences were primarily driven by higher spirituality among Hispanics. Future studies should examine positive mental health among various Hispanic subgroups, including Spanish speakers, as an important step toward development of culturally sensitive prevention and intervention programs aimed at promoting positive mental health.