Good English gives better mental health to Asian Americans
Dec 1, 2006 - 4:22:09 PM
Washington, Dec 1 - Indian and other Asian men with good or excellent English skills are less likely to have mental health problems than those with poorer English proficiency, according to a new study of immigrants to the US.
Asian Americans in general have lower rates of psychiatric disorders than American-born Asians and other native-born Americans with English-language proficiency the main variable among men and birthplace the key factor for women.
Asian-American immigrant women were far less likely to suffer from depression, anxiety, substance abuse or psychiatric disorder in their lifetime than were US-born women, according to this first national epidemiological survey of the community.
'Compared to all Americans, Asian Americans had lower lifetime rates of any disorder,' said David Takeuchi, a sociologist and University of Washington social work professor and lead author of the study published in the American Journal of Public Health.
'Roughly 48 percent of Americans will have some kind of a lifetime disorder. In our study, less than one in four Asian-American immigrants will have a disorder. However, that won't necessarily be the case for their children and grandchildren. If trends continue, rates for them will go up and that suggests that more investment is needed for prevention programmes.'
The researchers used a questionnaire designed by the World Health Organisation to find out about incidents in the past year and lifetime of depression, anxiety, phobias, post traumatic stress disorder, substance and alcohol abuse and eating disorders.
The questionnaire was available in six languages, although nearly three-quarters of the interviews were conducted in English.
The study also found that there were no significant differences among the main immigrant groups, the Chinese, Filipinos and Vietnamese.
Asian immigrants who came as elementary school-age children have an easier time learning English than older children, but are more at risk to develop a substance abuse problem.
American-born women are twice as likely to have a depressive disorder than Asian-born women.
Among men, those born elsewhere are less likely to have a substance abuse problem than Asian-American men born in the United States.
The study also raised a number of questions that Takeuchi said the researchers want to look at in the future. He said they would like to compare the circumstances of immigrants who voluntarily migrate and those who are refugees.
'Someone who is a voluntary immigrant doesn't typically suffer the severe trauma that a refugee who is fleeing persecution or war does.' And because social relationships can enhance or deter social mobility, the researchers also want to examine how discrimination is associated with mental health among Asian Americans.
Other papers in the journal look at the mental health of Latino and Black Caribbean immigrants to the United States. In general, all of the papers suggest that immigrants have lower rates of mental disorders than native-born Americans.
Data from the Asian-American paper was drawn from the larger National Latino and Asian American Study.
For this paper, the researchers interviewed nearly 2,100 native-born or immigrant Asian Americans who were 18 or older. Participants included 600 Chinese, 520 Vietnamese, 508 Filipinos and 467 other Asians including Japanese, Koreans and Asian Indians.
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