Acculturation: Stress and Depression in Latinos
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Acculturative stress is defined as the existing psychological impact of adaptation to a new culture. For Hispanics who come to the United States, there are a considerable number of significant stressors that are likely to be pervasive, intense, and lifelong. According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services in 2001, The Latino population is growing rapidly, and it is estimated that by 2050, nearly one quarter of the U.S. population will be Latino. Because of this steady tend in increasing population, counselors need to continually familiarize themselves with, and be especially cognizant of, the pressures of Hispanic teens and help them adapt to these stressors. Stress models suggest that an individual’s perception of a situation as being threatening or beyond one’s coping ability can cause stress and lead to negative emotions, like depression. So, when pressures to assimilate, lack of intercultural competence, or discrimination are perceived as exceeding one’s ability to handle them, it can lead to a subjective perception of stress and also to depression in teens.
The Beginning of the Study
A recent study conducted at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis says acculturative stress may explain, in part, why Indiana's Latino youth face an alarming disparity in depression and suicide rates when compared to white children of the same age. Latino teens in Indiana had a 65 percent higher rate of suicide attempts and a 24 percent higher rate of depression than white teens, according to epidemiological health disparities data. Second generation teens are often forced to behave one way in their homes and this contributes to a conflict with the larger outside culture. The conflict between Latino teens and their parents, regarding what they do and how they should act, can add additional pressure to their teenage years.
The study examined a correlation between acculturative stress and depression among 86 Latino adolescents between ages 12 and 19. This community-based participatory research study focused on 41 males and 45 females and discovered that nearly 60 percent of the participants had some level of depression. In addition, those students who reported having moderate levels of acculturative stress were 10 times more likely to have depression. Students with low self-mastery and reported difficulty overcoming obstacles were six times more likely to experience acculturative stress.
Katrina Conrad, community research and outreach coordinator at the school, was stunned by the results. "When we saw the alarming disparity in suicide attempts and depression rates, we had to ask what could be going on." With community partner Virna Diaz, director of the Latino Health Organization, and funding from the Indiana Minority Health Coalition, the research team developed a yearlong program for Latino teens focusing on boosting self-mastery and resiliency called "Your Life. Your Story: Latino Youth Summit." The program launched in June with a summer camp for the teens. It includes a resilience-building curriculum, a mentoring component with undergraduates from the university, physical activity and other activities including art, music, storytelling, technology and dance which allow for emotional expression. Students have monthly meetings where they engage in activities that are designed to provide them with outlets to further develop their identities and sense of self, and to give them the ability to communicate their stories.
After just the first week of summer camp, the results have been promising. The team found that participants had a statistically significant increase in resilience and a statistically significant decrease in depressive symptoms. At the end of the year, the researchers hope to see that those trends have continued.
In classic stress and coping theory, coping strategies play a critical role in the stress–adjustment relation. Coping includes cognitive or behavioral efforts to manage situations appraised as taxing or exceeding a person’s resources. The ability to increase their resiliency (in other words, to cope) directly mitigates stress.
Thus, coping is a regulatory process that can reduce the negative feelings resulting from stressful events. Generally, active coping (where the problem is managed cognitively or through action) is thought to mitigate the debilitating effects of stress, whereas avoidant coping (where the problem is ignored or repressed) is thought to be less effective. By having these students involved in a program of this nature, they are actively developing coping skills and enhancing their resiliency, hence opening the door to decreasing depression, stress and even social anxiety.
"The 'Your Life. Your Story.' program has the potential to create a large and lasting impact, not only in Indianapolis, but across Indiana and even nationwide," Conrad said. "We think it is something that could be tailored to other types of underserved or marginalized youth as well, and we hope to expand it."
Conclusion: The process of acculturation is linked with a significantly higher risk of contracting depression for Hispanic men and women, and actively working through the acculturation process through specialized acculturation programs and personal support systems is far more effective at reducing depression than ignoring the problem.
- Laura A. Wells
Acculturative Stress Causes Depression, Suicide In Latino Youth. (2014, November 18). Retrieved November 19, 2014, from http://www.science20.com/news_articles/acculturative_stress_causes_depression_suicide_in_latino_youth-149403
Crockett, L., Iturbide, M., Torres Stone, R., McGinley, M., Raffaelli, M., & Carlo, G. (2007, January 1). Acculturative Stress, Social Support, and Coping: Relations to Psychological Adjustment among Mexican American College Students. Retrieved November 19, 2014, from http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1298&context=psychfacpub
Indiana University. (2014, November 18). Acculturative stress found to be root cause of high depression rates in Latino youth. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 19, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/11/141118072958.htm