177375 Downward Social Mobility and Major Depressive Episodes among Latino and Asian American Immigrants in the United States

Wednesday, October 29, 2008: 8:30 AM

Emily Joy Nicklett, MSW , Health Management and Policy, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI
Sarah A. Burgard, PhD , Department of Sociology & Population Studies Center, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI

International migration, which often involves a disruption of social ties and could involve a change in social status, is a stressful life event that has gained increasing attention in mental health research. While research on physical health has shown unexpected better outcomes for immigrants than for native-born individuals in the United States – an “epidemiologic paradox” – the findings on the mental health of immigrants have been more mixed.

Research Strategy:

In this analysis we use the national Latino and Asian American Study (NLAAS), a large and diverse sample of Latino and Asian Americans, to examine within-group variation in migration experiences. We analyze the association between downward social mobility that arises as a function of migration to the United States and the risk for major depressive episodes.


Results suggest a strong relationship between downward mobility and depressive episodes, particularly among individuals who had relatively low social standing in their countries of origin. Results are robust to control for a variety of sociodemographic controls, years in the US, and citizenship status.

Policy Implications:

The findings suggest that immigrant populations experiencing downward mobility—precisely those least likely to obtain mental health services—might be in the greatest need of them. Subsequent research focusing on risk and protective factors for depression among downwardly mobile immigrants are needed to further identify populations in need of mental health services.

Learning Objectives:
1. Examine the extent to which downward mobility among immigrants (that arises as a function of migration to the United States) is associated with risk for major depressive episodes. 2. Identify specific subgroups that are at relatively high and relatively low risk of depression among downwardly mobile immigrants. This will enable interventions to be most appropriately and efficiently targeted to groups in highest need.

Keywords: Depression, Immigrants

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I initiated the research question and initial data analyses and manuscript drafts. The co-author and I collaborated in many aspects of the study, including data analysis, manuscript writing and preparation, and review of the literature.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.