Friday, February 16, 2024

Discrimination of Mexican Youth Linked to Mental Health, Sleep Problems

Nearly 9 in 10 Mexican-origin youth living in Northern Indiana reported experiencing discrimination, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. These findings reflect the first wave of a three-wave longitudinal study, Seguimos Avanzando, which is examining the effects of discrimination as well as family support on the mental health of Mexican-origin youth in regions experiencing new migration.

“In new migration areas, Latinx individuals are often portrayed as having criminal tendencies, perpetuating negative stereotypes and increasing marginalization,” wrote Margarita Alegria, Ph.D., of Massachusetts General Hospital and colleagues. “Previous research has not studied risk and protective factors among Latinx individuals living in a predominantly White population state, and few studies used longitudinal designs barring rare exceptions.”

For wave 1, Alegria and colleagues surveyed an ethnically homogeneous sample of 344 Mexican-origin adolescents (aged 12 to 15) and their primary caregivers. Measures on the youth-reported surveys included past two-week depressive symptoms (Child Depression Inventory-2 Short Form), past three-month anxiety symptoms (Generalized Anxiety Disorder Scale of the Screen for Child Anxiety Related Emotional Disorders), past-month sleep quality (Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index global scores), and lifetime perceived racial discrimination (Perceptions of Racism in Children and Youth).

After completing the wave 1 survey, 317 youth also completed a one-time 21-day diary in which they reported items including their daily stress, daily perceived racial discrimination, and previous night’s sleep quality.

The researchers found that 88.1% of youth reported at least one incident of lifetime discrimination. Furthermore, 29.7% had elevated depressive symptoms, 44.5% had probable generalized anxiety disorder, and 50.9% had poor sleep quality. Across both the survey and diary reports, Alegria and colleagues found a consistent correlation between increased perceived racial discrimination and worse mental health and sleep quality.

“Contributing factors [for these outcomes] for Mexican American youth could be acculturative stress, associated with worse mental health outcomes, the recent COVID-19 pandemic, exposure to food insecurity, and housing instability,” the researchers wrote. “Discrimination and uneasiness in social situations responding to racism could also cause elevated risk.”

For related information, see the Psychiatric Services article “Leveraging Latinx and Spanish-Language Media to Achieve Mental Health Equity.”

(Image: Getty Images/iStock/aldomurillo)

Don't miss out! To learn about newly posted articles in Psychiatric News, please sign up here.


The content of Psychiatric News does not necessarily reflect the views of APA or the editors. Unless so stated, neither Psychiatric News nor APA guarantees, warrants, or endorses information or advertising in this newspaper. Clinical opinions are not peer reviewed and thus should be independently verified.