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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

UAB Studies Panic Attacks in Minority Americans

In general, a lifetime prevalence of panic attacks is estimated at 22.7 percent, but research on the correlates and causes of depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses in minority groups have yielded mixed results. Therefore, Dr. Henna Budhwani, assistant professor in the department of health care organization and policy at the University of Alabama at Birmingham — collaborating with Dr. Kristine Ria Hearld, assistant professor in UAB’s School of Health Professions, and Mr. Daniel Chavez-Yenter, program coordinator at UAB’s Sparkman Center for Global Health — recently evaluated the relationship among panic attacks, minority status, and nativity by focusing on the effects of health lifestyle behaviors and discrimination.

BudhwaniH _UAB_ASPPH
[Photo: Dr. Henna Budhwani]

Multivariate analysis was performed using logistic regression, which estimated the probability of meeting the criteria for panic attacks in 17,249 individuals. Results of the study indicate that demographic and socioeconomic variables had significant associations and that females had over 2.4 times higher odds than males of meeting the criteria for panic attacks. The more frequently respondents were treated as dishonest, less smart, or with disrespect, or were threatened or called names, the more likely they met the criteria for panic attacks. In addition, smoking and alcohol abuse were found to be significant predictors of panic attacks. Those subjects who abused alcohol had over two times the odds of having panic attacks; similarly, smokers had 52 percent higher odds of panic attacks than non-smokers.

The primary limitation of this project was the lack of a true acculturation measure with a secondary limitation being the inability to determine respondents’ legal status.

Key findings were that health lifestyle choices and exposure to discrimination significantly affected the chance of having panic attacks. Nativity was protective; however, its effect was ameliorated by exposure to discrimination or engagement in smoking behavior or alcohol abuse. Thus, the researchers concluded that this study offers insight into contextual factors for clinicians caring for racial and ethnic minorities diagnosed with panic attacks.

“Panic Attacks in Minority Americans: The Effects of Alcohol Abuse, Tobacco Smoking, and Discrimination” was published online in November 2014 in the Journal of Affective Disorders.

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