Abstract: Collective Strengths Related to Differential Health and Mental Health in Three Major Subgroups of Latino Americans (Society for Social Work and Research 24th Annual Conference - Reducing Racial and Economic Inequality)

Collective Strengths Related to Differential Health and Mental Health in Three Major Subgroups of Latino Americans

Friday, January 17, 2020
Treasury, ML 4 (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
* noted as presenting author
Amy Ai, PhD, Professor, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL
Background: In terms of race and ethnicity, Latino Americans (Latinos) constitute a highly heterogeneous population in the United States, which includes three major ethnic subcultures (e.g., Cubans, Mexicans, and Puerto Ricans). Social Identity Theory (Tajfel, 1982) suggests that collective strength may become psychosocial resources for group members in face of adversity. In this study, we investigated the role of their collective strengths (e.g., religious involvement, ethnic identity/REI), defined as collective traits embraced in shared sociocultural values and traditional legacies of certain social groups. Evidence has shown that collective strengths may benefit minorities through enhanced mental and physical health, or coping skills for dealing with life stressors, including discrimination, in African Americans. In examining the association between such strengths and overall health in Latinos subculture, however, we expected differential findings given the heterogeneity across three major subgroups (e.g., Cubans, Mexicans, and Puerto Ricans).

Method: Using the National Latino and Asian American (NLAAS) study, a national household survey of Latinos, this study examined the relationship of cultural strengths and social support with self-reported physical (SRPH) and mental health (SRMH) among Cubans, Mexicans, and Puerto Ricans (N=1628). Among the respondents, there were 2,554 Latinos aged 18 years or older. Included in our final model were 1,940 participants, including self-identified Cubans (n = 577), Mexicans (n = 868), and Puerto Ricans (n = 495). Multiple regression analyses were conducted for each subgroup to verify the effect of strength factors on SPH and SRMH, controlling for known demographic and acculturation predictors.

Results: Cubans had highest REI and were more affluent, compared with Puerto Ricans and Mexicans. Mexicans reported the highest religious attendance (RA). Regarding demographics, Mexicans and Puerto Ricans report remarkably lower levels of SES than Cubans. As for acculturation factors, Puerto Ricans and Mexicans perceived more Discrimination than Cubans. Puerto Ricans had the best English Proficiency, were more likely to be U.S.-born, and have longer residence in the nation. Multivariate analyses revealed positive effects of RA on the SRPH and SRMH of Puerto Ricans, controlling for negative roles of discrimination. REI was linked with better SRMH of all three subgroups,. Age was associated with poor SRPH for all, whereas men, especially Cuban men, reported better SRMH than others. Education was linked with better SRMH for both Puerto Ricans and Mexicans. English Proficiency was tied to better SRPH for Cubans and Puerto Ricans, whereas Discrimination was consistently associated with reduced SRMH for Puerto Ricans and Mexicans.

Conclusion:  The present findings lends support for the expected differential influences of collective strengths in three major Latino subgroups based on diverse subcultural backgrounds. Our findings imply that assumptions about the role of collective cultural strengths in disadvantaged minorities can be better understood in their diverse subcultural contexts.