Mental Health Disparities Among Low-Income US Hispanic Residents of a US-Mexico Border Colonia

J Racial Ethn Health Disparities. 2015 Dec;2(4):445-56. doi: 10.1007/s40615-015-0091-1. Epub 2015 Mar 12.


Unregulated residential settlements along the US side of the US-Mexico border, often called "colonias", are mainly populated by low-income Mexican-origin Hispanics. Colonia residents face numerous social, environmental, economic and public health challenges. Despite this, the mental health of individuals living in colonias has remained largely understudied. Drawing from a survey (N = 98) conducted through a community-based participatory research project in one colonia suffering from numerous environmental and social challenges, this study analyzes residents' mental health outcomes and access to mental health care with a focus on intra-ethnic disparities based on environmental concerns, nativity, language acculturation, comorbidity, gender, health insurance, and stressful life events. Data were analyzed using descriptive statistics, correlation, and regression. More than one third of the residents have been diagnosed with a mental health condition and over half reported stress and excess worry. In terms of mental health care, 77 % of individuals diagnosed with a mental health problem have sought additional help mainly through a primary care provider despite the high levels of uninsured individuals. Comorbidity, being female, recent negative life events, and high levels of environmental concerns were significant predictors of negative mental health outcomes. This study contributes to the understanding of the complex health dynamics of the US Hispanic population. It also highlights the need for additional research and resources devoted to the mental health of low-income minorities in isolated communities.

Keywords: Colonia; Environmental concerns; Hispanic; Mental health; Mental health care; US-Mexico border.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Female
  • Health Services Accessibility
  • Health Status Disparities*
  • Hispanic Americans / psychology*
  • Hispanic Americans / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / ethnology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Poverty / ethnology*
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Young Adult