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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Arizona Study Examines Racial/Ethnic and Socioeconomic Disparities in Mental Health in Arizona

Mental health issues are a rapidly increasing problem in the U.S. Little is known about mental health and healthcare among Arizona’s Hispanic population. A study by researchers at the University of Arizona Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health finds mental health disparities between Arizona Whites and Hispanics. The study is published in the journal Frontiers in Public Health.

The researchers examined the differences in mental health service need, mental health diagnoses, and illicit drug use among 7,578 White and Hispanic participants in the 2010 Arizona Health Survey.

Prevalence of mild, moderate, or severe psychological distress was negatively associated with socioeconomic status (SES) among both Whites and Hispanics. Overall, Hispanics were less likely than Whites to have been diagnosed with a mental health condition; however, diagnosis rates were negatively associated with SES among both populations. Hispanics had considerably lower levels of lifetime illicit drug use than their White counterparts. Illicit drug use increased with SES among Hispanics but decreased with SES among Whites. After adjustment for relevant socio-demographic characteristics, multivariable linear regression suggested that Hispanics have significantly lower Kessler scores than Whites. These differences were largely explained by lower Kessler scores among non-English proficient Hispanics relative to English-speaking populations. Moreover, logistic regression suggests that Hispanics, the foreign born, and the non-English language proficient have lower odds of lifetime illicit drug use than Whites, the US born, and the English-language proficient, respectively.

The unique social and political context in Arizona may have important but understudied effects on the physical and mental health of Hispanics. The research suggests mental health disparities between Arizona Whites and Hispanics, which should be addressed via culturally- and linguistically tailored mental health care. More observational and intervention research is necessary to better understand the relationship between race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, health care, and mental health in Arizona.