The Society for Social Work and Research

2014 Annual Conference

January 15-19, 2014 I Grand Hyatt San Antonio I San Antonio, TX

The Relationship Between Discrimination and Depression: Among Mexican, Mexican American, and Chicano Respondents of the National Epidemiologic Survey On Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC)

Friday, January 17, 2014
HBG Convention Center, Bridge Hall Street Level (San Antonio, TX)
* noted as presenting author
Lucinda Nevarez, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Texas at San Antonio, Pearland, TX
Luis R. Torres, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Houston, Houston, TX

     As the largest minority group in the US and slated to be the majority by 2050, Hispanics represent a segment of the population whose mental and physical health greatly impacts the social, environmental, and economic well being of this society. The diverse nature of the Hispanic population makes it uniquely vulnerable to encountering multiple sources of discrimination. Furthermore, in an environment overflowing with anti-immigration rhetoric, Hispanics are particularly susceptible to incidences of discrimination.  A recent Pew Hispanic Center survey found that the number of Hispanics reporting a personal experience with discrimination has increased, and that the majority of Hispanic respondents expect this trend to continue. The literature has established an association between experiencing discrimination and poorer self-rated health, higher incidences of psychological disorders, and higher mortality rates among minorities. However, little research focuses on the effects of discrimination on the psychological wellbeing of Hispanics and Mexicans/Mexican-Americans in particular. The current study examines the relationship between past-year experiences of discrimination and depression in Mexicans and Mexican-Americans.  


      This study uses data from the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC), a national probability survey conducted in two waves by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) in 2001–2002 and 2004–2005. Respondents include citizens and noncitizens, 18+ years old, living within households and other “group quarters”. Only Wave 2 NESARC data is used because discrimination was not measured at Wave I. Participants for this study are limited to those identified as Chicano, Mexican or Mexican American, resulting in a study sub-sample of 3,472. The study measures the independent variable (discrimination) in four areas: discrimination due to being Hispanic, weight, gender, and religion. The dependent variable (depression) is measured through the presence/history of a diagnosis of depression, dysthymia, mood disorder, and symptom counts. The study also examines the influence of contextual variables, on the relationship between discrimination and depression.


     Results are consistent with findings in the literature suggesting low rates of depression diagnoses among Hispanics but higher endorsement rates of depression symptoms. Logistic regressions indicate that respondents who report more incidents of discrimination also reported higher rates of depression. Discrimination due to being Hispanic was most frequently reported by respondents and was the source of discrimination most associated with depression. This was followed by discrimination due to gender, religion, and weight consecutively. The contextual variables nativity, personal/family history of alcohol abuse, gender, language, income, poverty level, education, age, and race/ethnic identification were found to mediate the relationship between discrimination and depression to varying degrees.


Given some of the current state and national policies targeting Hispanics, social workers must be aware of the deleterious effect, discrimination has on the psychological health of Hispanics. Social workers in both research and practice should consider that Hispanics may express depression differently, preferring to endorse symptoms rather than diagnoses. By understanding the relationship between discrimination and depression and how it may manifest among Hispanics, social workers will be better equipped to address this populations mental health needs.