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Is living in the U.S. bad for your mental health?

According to multiple studies cited in Mental Health: Culture Race and Ethnicity, Mexican Americans born outside the United States have lower prevalence rates of lifetime disorders than Mexican Americans born in the United States.  25% of Mexican-born immigrants show signs of mental illness or substance abuse compared to 48% of U.S.-born Mexican Americans.

The studies suggest that there are social dynamics that contribute to mental illness and substance abuse.  Children of immigrants often face unique stresses while navigating a bilingual/bicultural world.  But Dr. David Satcher, a former U.S. Surgeon General, has made the observation that ethnic and racial minorities “face a social and economic environment of inequality that includes greater exposure to racism, discrimination, violence and poverty. Living in poverty has the most measurable effect on the rates of mental illness. (our emphasis) People in the lowest stratum of income…are about two to three times more likely than those in the highest stratum to have a mental disorder.”

If we want to improve mental health, we must also address the social/economic environment in which we live.



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