244252 Suicidal ideation and substance use among Asian-American young women

Tuesday, November 1, 2011: 2:50 PM

Hyeouk Chris Hahm, PhD, LCSW , Assistant Professor, Boston University School of Social Work, Boston, MA
Lena Lundgren, PhD , School of Social Work, Boston University, Boston, MA
Ja Yoon Uni Choe , Committee on Degrees in Studies of Women, Gender and Sexuality, Harvard College, Cambridge, MA
Victoria Lo , Department of Sociology, Harvard College, Cambridge, MA
Cecilia Vu , Sargent college, Boston University, Boston, MA
Background: Is there a relationship between poor mental health among Asian American women and substance abuse? Despite high rates of poor mental health, Asian American women are demonstrably less likely to seek professional help. More research is needed on this population's use of substances to cope with poor mental health. Objectives: This study examines the association between suicidal ideation and substance use among young Asian-American women. Methodology: We surveyed 501 Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese single women, who are children of immigrants and residents of the Greater Boston Area. Computer-Assisted Survey Interview (CASI) was used to ask participants about their mental health functioning, health behaviors, and substance use. We used multiple logistic regressions to analyze the association between suicidal ideation and the use of tobacco, alcohol, binge drinking, marijuana, and illicit drugs, after controlling for important covariates. Results: Overall, 16% of our sample reported lifetime suicidal ideation. Rates of substance use were high (regular cigarette use, 8.6%; binge drinking in the past 12 months 40%; ever marijuana use, 27%; ever illegal drug use, 9.4%). Suicidal ideation was associated with regular cigarette use (OR= 5.4), ever marijuana use (OR = 1.8), and ever illegal drug use (OR = 3.2). Higher education was significantly associated with increased alcohol use and binge drinking. Conclusion: The robust association between suicidal ideation and the use of tobacco and illicit drugs may be the result of self-medicating behavior. Our findings call for culturally appropriate drug and substance abuse programs for Asian-American women, especially in higher education institutions.

Learning Areas:
Public health or related public policy
Public health or related research

Learning Objectives:
1) Describe the prevalence of suicidal ideation and substance use among Asian-American women. 2) Identify the association between suicidal ideation and the use of various substances among Asian American women 3) Discuss possible intervention strategies that will reduce substance use and improve mental health among this population.

Keywords: Mental Health, Substance Abuse

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I oversee the Asian Women's Health Initiative Project at Boston University School of Social Work, as the Principal Investigator.
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.