The impact of ethnicity and social support on the adaptation and quality of life of severely mentally ill outpatients

Rosa Mari Ramirez-Mella, Fordham University


This study compared perceived social support, psychological well-being, satisfaction with life, and psychosocial functioning in a sample of Hispanic and Non-Hispanic outpatients. A review of the literature revealed no data on the impact of ethnicity on these variables on a seriously mentally ill population. Seventy-six psychiatric outpatients in treatment in a New York City public hospital participated. Fifty-three were Hispanic (mainly Puerto Rican) and 23 Non-Hispanic Whites. There were 41 females and 12 males in the Hispanic sample and 8 males and 15 females in the White sample. The mean age was 47 and 48 years, respectively. Participants completed five self-report instruments measuring life satisfaction (QOLI), perceived social support from family and friends (PSS-Fa, Fr), health status (SF-36), and psychiatric symptomatology (BSI). A measure of degree of acculturation was administered to the Hispanic subsample only. Statistical analyses revealed that Hispanic patients reported significantly greater psychiatric symptoms and distress than the Non-Hispanic Whites. However, Hispanic individuals did not obtain higher levels of perceived social support than Non-Hispanic Whites as was predicted. In addition, individuals with high Hispanic acculturation did not obtain higher PSS than individuals with bicultural and with high American acculturation. Significant negative correlations were found between PSS-Fa and both the Global Severity Index and most subscales of the BSI. A significant negative correlation was found between PSS-Fr and the BSI depression scale. Significant positive correlations were found between both PSS-Fa and PSS-Fr and perceived mental health (SF-36). PSS-Fa and PSS-Fr also correlated with ratings of overall satisfaction with life. A hierarchical regression elaborated this finding with PSS explaining a substantial amount of the variance in satisfaction with life. However, individuals with high PSS did not report higher well-being and better perceived functioning in the physical, emotional, and social areas. Analyses of the relationship between diagnostic groups and outcome variables found that Hispanics had a higher rate of depression than Whites. In addition, subjects with diagnosis of depression, regardless of ethnicity, reported significantly less satisfaction with life, well-being, and lower psychosocial functioning than those with psychotic and bipolar disorders. The main findings of this study point to the importance of perceived social support in helping individuals cope with mental illness. Findings regarding ethnicity revealed that Hispanics in this sample had a higher rate of depression and reported more psychiatric distress. Finally, the results point to the need to incorporate treatment modalities that help depressed patients, particularly Hispanics, build and maintain a social support network.

Subject Area

Psychotherapy|Social psychology|Minority & ethnic groups|Sociology

Recommended Citation

Ramirez-Mella, Rosa Mari, "The impact of ethnicity and social support on the adaptation and quality of life of severely mentally ill outpatients" (1998). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9825850.