Abstract: Family Factors and Major Psychiatric Disorders in Asian-Americans (Society for Social Work and Research 23rd Annual Conference - Ending Gender Based, Family and Community Violence)

Family Factors and Major Psychiatric Disorders in Asian-Americans

Saturday, January 19, 2019: 9:30 AM
Union Square 25 Tower 3, 4th Floor (Hilton San Francisco)
* noted as presenting author
Amy Ai, PhD, Professor, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL
Jungup Lee, PhD, Assistant Professor, National University of Singapore, Singapore
Hoa Appel, PhD, Lecturer, University of Washington Bothell, Bothell, WA
Background and Purpose:

Asian Americans constitute the fastest growing minority group in the United States. Despite within-ethnic/racial group diversity, Asian cultural traditions share a common emphasis on collective cultural strengths, especially family values. Although Asian family-centered culture has been changed, it is still a keystone in daily life. This study investigated the roles of family cohesiveness, other cultural strength factors, and negative interactions in major depression disorder (MDD), general anxiety disorder (GAD), and substance use disorder (SUD) among Asian Americans.


The data for 2,095 Asian Americans (Chinese, Filipino, Vietnamese, and other Asian Americans) were used from the National Latino and Asian American Study (NLAAS). The average age was 41.22 years (SD=14.77; range: 18-97), and average income was 5.6 (SD=4.9), based on the 2001 Census household income/needs ratio (range: 0-17). Although only slightly over two-fifth of the sample was US-born, over 80% of Asians have stayed in the US at least 11 years. Logistic regression analyses were conducted with diagnostic status as the criterion for each of the three outcomes (MDD, GAD, and SUD), respectively, involving two preplanned steps.


Supporting our hypotheses, multivariate analyses showed family cohesiveness was associated with lower odds of being diagnosed with GAD, and regular religious attendance was linked with a lower likelihood of having SUD. Conversely, negative family interactions increased the likelihood of experiencing MDD and SUD. Perceived discrimination was related to higher odds of all diagnoses, but family cohesiveness moderated the relationship between discrimination and GAD. These findings suggest that family relationship plays a critical role in Asian Americans’ mental health and should be further explored through a prospective design.

Conclusions and Implications:

This study highlights the influence of family cohesion, other cultural strength factors, and negative interactions on major psychiatric disorders and contributes to its useful information to provide in social work research and practice. As Asian Americans have become a crucial proportion of ethnic minority population in the US, it is important to consider family relationship when assessing mental health risks in Asian Americans. This knowledge can be used by social work practitioners in developing and implementing family-based and culturally-grounded programs to reduce mental health problems as well as to improve their well-being.