Do Social Ties Protect Immigrants from Depressive Disorders?

Tuesday, 12 July 2016
Location: Hörsaal 6B P (Neues Institutsgebäude (NIG))
Distributed Paper
Magdalena SZAFLARSKI, University of Alabama at Birmingham, USA
There is a complex relationship between social ties and mental health of immigrants in the United States. Social ties are known to enhance mental well-being and protect against mental illness. However, social ties among immigrants are correlated with other factors, such as acculturation, racial-ethnic identity, and stress, which also have relationships to mental health and illness, resulting in sometimes unclear findings regarding the association between social ties and immigrant mental health status.  In addition, the concept of social ties as they relate to health is multifaceted, and measurement of its various dimensions (e.g., social network, social support) is often limited, contributing to inconsistent findings across literature. This study is unique in that it considers immigrants’ racial-ethnic background, other immigrant characteristics, and multiple measures of social ties to clarify the association between social ties and depressive disorders among immigrants. The data for the study are derived from the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Alcohol-Related Conditions, a large representative, longitudinal sample of US adults. DSM-IV-based diagnoses of major depression and dysthymic disorders and measures of 12-month prevalence and 3-year incidence and persistence of each disorder were constructed. Social ties were assessed with previously published social network, social support , and racial-ethnic social preference measures. Acculturation, racial-ethnic identity, and stress were also assessed using existing measures. Logistic regression analyses were conducted to test unadjusted and adjusted models for each outcome, computing interactive effects of foreign-born status and race-ethnicity. In the final model, with a few exceptions, network close ties and network instrumental ties were associated with lower likelihood of having a prevalent, acquired, or persisting depression. However, social support and racial-ethnic social preference typically had no significant associations with the outcomes. The discussion focuses on how and why different aspects of social ties can be protective or neutral in immigrant depressive disorders.