Abstract: Perceived Discrimination, Psychological Resources, and Mental Distress in Vietnamese Americans (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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536P Perceived Discrimination, Psychological Resources, and Mental Distress in Vietnamese Americans

Tuesday, January 19, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Trang Nguyen, PhD, MSW, Postdoctoral Fellow, Tulane University, New Orleans, LA
Yuri Jang, PhD, Professor, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA
Background and Purpose: Vietnamese Americans (VAs) are the fifth largest immigrant group in the United States (US), and they are known to be vulnerable to mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety, and posttraumatic stress disorder. However, factors associated with their mental health remain understudied. Given the high prevalence of experiencing discrimination among immigrant populations and its close link to mental health problems, the present study conceptualized perceived discrimination as a risk factor to mental distress in VAs. Adapted from the model of cultural adaptation and resilience (Castro & Murray, 2012), the role of psychological resources (acculturation, social network, and religiosity) in the context of discrimination experience was explored.

Methods: A total of 513 VAs was drawn from the Asian American Quality of Life (AAQoL) survey (total N = 2,614) conducted with self-identified Asian Americans aged 18 or older in Central Texas. Data were collected through self-administrated paper-and-pencil format surveys conducted in participants’ preferred language (English or native language).

In addition to descriptive and correlation analyses, a series of linear regression analyses was performed on mental distress, measured with the Kessler Psychological Distress Scale (K6). The entry order of predictors was (1) age, gender, marital status, education, unmet financial needs, self-rated health, and years in the U.S., (2) perceived discrimination, and (3) social network, acculturation, and religiosity. The interactions between perceived discrimination and psychological resources were also examined.

Results: The average age of the sample was 44.3 (SD = 16.7), with a range from 18 to 85. About 60% were women, and 42% were not married. More than 32% of participants reported perceived discrimination. The average score of mental distress was 6.42 (SD = 4.66; ranged from 0 to 24). At the bivariate level, a higher level of mental distress was associated with younger age, unmarried status, unmet financial status, poorer ratings of health, fewer years of stay in the U.S., perceived discrimination, smaller social network, and lower levels of acculturation and religiosity. When background variables were controlled, the experience of discrimination (β = .15, p < .01), smaller social network (β = -.10, p < .05), and lower acculturation (β = -.17, p < .05) were found to be significant predictors to mental distress. No significant interaction was found.

Conclusions and Implications: The findings suggest the importance of perceived discrimination, acculturation, and social network to mental distress of VAs. While perceived discrimination poses a critical risk to mental health, social network and acculturation provide direct benefits as psychological resources. These identified risks and resources should be addressed in developing and implementing culturally sensitive mental health services targeting VA communities.