The association between self-reported racial discrimination and 12-month DSM-IV mental disorders among Asian Americans nationwide

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Discrimination; Asian Americans; Race; Mental health; Health disparities; USA


Psychology | Social and Behavioral Sciences


Growing research finds that reports of discrimination are associated with mental health. However, many US studies are focused on regional samples and do not control for important confounders such as other stressors and response factors. The present study examines the association between self-reported racial discrimination and DSM-IV defined mental disorders among Asian respondents to the 2002–2003 US National Latino and Asian American Study (n ¼ 2047). Logistic regression analyses indicated that self-reported racial discrimination was associated with greater odds of having any DSM-IV disorder, depressive disorder, or anxiety disorder within the past 12 months—controlling for sociodemographic characteristics, acculturative stress, family cohesion, poverty, self-rated health, chronic physical conditions, and social desirability. Further, multinomial logistic regression found that individuals who reported discrimination were at a twofold greater risk of having one disorder within the past 12 months, and a threefold greater risk of having two or more disorders. Thus, self-reported discrimination was associated with increased risk of mental disorders among Asian Americans across the United States and this relationship was not explained by social desirability, physical health, other stressors, and sociodemographic factors. Should these associations ultimately be shown enduring and causal, they suggest that policies designed to reduce discrimination may help improve mental health.

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