Ethnic health disparities; mental health; Asian Americans; immigration


Medicine and Health | Race and Ethnicity | Social and Behavioral Sciences | Sociology


Asian Americans have become the fastest-growing racial group in the United States, yet their health profiles are still under-explored. In particular, the existing research on Asian American mental health has not devoted adequate attention to the enormous ethnic heterogeneity of the group. Grounded upon theoretical frameworks of the tri-racial system and a contextual approach, we examined ethnic disparities in Asian American mental health using data from the National Latino and Asian American Study (NLAAS). We focused on ethnic membership, immigration-related factors, socioeconomic status, and social support as the main correlates of multiple outcomes, including self-rated mental health, psychological distress, and various types of psychiatric disorders. Our project revealed considerable ethnic variations, with Asian Indian Americans displaying the most significant mental health advantage in general, Korean Americans being most prone to psychological disorders, and other ethnic groups falling somewhere in between. Although Vietnamese Americans and Chinese Americans had worse self-rated health than Asian Indian Americans, such differences disappeared once we controlled for immigration and socioeconomic status, suggesting candidate mechanisms that might explain some of the ethnic disparities. This study sheds light on the importance of analyzing ethnic heterogeneity and incorporating multiple outcomes when exploring Asian American mental health. It also calls for more data collection efforts on national samples of diverse subgroups to contribute to health disparities research and practice.