142nd APHA Annual Meeting and Exposition

Annual Meeting Recordings are now available for purchase

Mental Health Benefits of Familism: How eating dinner together regularly is associated with better mental health among low-income Latino families in East Los Angeles

142nd APHA Annual Meeting and Exposition (November 15 - November 19, 2014): http://www.apha.org/events-and-meetings/annual
Monday, November 17, 2014 : 8:30 AM - 8:50 AM

Nancy E. Calderón, MPH , Center for Cancer Prevention & Control Research, UCLA, Los Angeles, CA
Nancy Guerrero-Llamas, BA , Community Health Sciences, UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, Los Angeles, CA
Georgiana Bostean, Ph.D. , Wilkinson College of Humanities and Social Science & Schmid College of Science and Technology, Chapman University, Orange, CA
Brenda Manzanarez, RD , Medicine/Endocrinology, University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine, Los Angeles, CA
Valerie Ruleas, MSW, LCSW , Division of Adolescent Medicine, Children's Hospital Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA
William McCarthy, PhD , Department of Health Policy and Management, UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, Los Angeles, CA
Among low-income Latino families, sitting down for regular family meals may reduce depressive symptomatology by increasing familism, a valued norm of cohesion among family members.  Regular participation in family meals is associated with increased adherence to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans(DGA) and better emotional wellbeing generally but not yet confirmed in U.S. Latinos.  Thus, this paper explores associations between regular participation in family meals among low-income U.S. Latinos and decreased depressive symptomatology, plausibly mediated by increased familism. 

Methods: As part of a multilevel lifestyle intervention study designed to promote adherence to the DGA among low-income Latinos living in East Los Angeles, we collected baseline data from 175 adults free of diabetes and heart disease (157 women; 18 men).  Mean age = 42.7±11.25 years; 61.7% had less than high school education;  95.8% spoke Spanish at home.  Depressiveness/anxiety scale derived from 5 mental health items in the SF-12 (reliability=.79).  Familism scale derived from 9 items about family relations (reliability=.92).

Results: Including age and sex as covariates, depressiveness/anxiety was inversely related to frequency of family meals (p=.004), with 5 or more times per week being optimal. Familism correlated positively with frequency of family meals (p=.0001) and negatively with depressiveness/anxiety (p=.001). Mediation analysis indicated that familism contributed significantly to reduced depressiveness and may explain why family meal frequency correlated inversely with depressive symptomatology.

Discussion:  Results comply with the following logic model:  frequency of family members eating dinner together contributes to increased familism, which contributes to reduced depressive symptomatology. Causal inferences await analysis of longitudinal data.

Learning Areas:

Chronic disease management and prevention
Diversity and culture
Public health or related research
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Explain the importance of familism as a cultural value for low-income Latinos; Describe the empirical correlates of families eating family meals together regularly; Explain how decreased depressive symptoms and more focus on family support can help Latinos adhere better to federal nutrition recommendations.

Keyword(s): Depression, Family Involvement

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: Most of my career has been leading intervention studies working with minority groups and underserved populations. My PhD is in Psychology from Yale University and I co-direct the Center for Population Health & Health Disparities focusing on multilevel approaches to reducing cardiovascular disease risk in East LA. As a professor at UCLA in the department of Psychology and department of health policy and management, I have published extensively on the psychosocial dynamics that affect health.
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.