The proposed project investigates the social mechanisms behind ethnic/racial differences in the prevalence of major depression disorder (MDD) and depressive and anxiety symptoms (DAS) in Latino young adults (ages 17-25). We propose to extend the path-breaking Boricua study to examine if experiences of minority status and acculturation are causally linked to differences in prevalence of MDD/DAS across Island versus mainland Puerto Ricans. Since Puerto Ricans are a minority in the South Bronx in NY but a majority on the Island of Puerto Rico, this migrant study design enables us to use variation across sites as a way to examine the causal mechanism of minority status and acculturation on mental health outcomes. Our planned study also includes a wide range of environmental, social, family, and individual level measures associated with MDD and DAS, and uses advanced statistical techniques to identify the risks and protective factors for these negative outcomes. We propose to conduct follow-up interviews with parents and with young adults now ages 17-25 who participated in the Boricua study. Using these data, we will conduct quantitative analysis to: 1) determine the causal impact of minority status as contrasted to majority status, 2) identify the mechanisms behind the effect of minority status on subsequent MDD and DAS, and 3) test conditions that moderate the causal link between minority status and environmental and social context. We will supplement the quantitative analysis with in- depth qualitative interviews and ethnographic neighborhood observation to deepen our understanding of the quantitative findings and identify minority status experiences and acculturation stresses potentially related to changes in MDD and DAS, as well as functional impairment. At the close of our study we intend to create a public-use database of the four waves of Boricua study. This would be the first longitudinal study to assess the causal effects of early experiences of minority status and acculturation on Latino young adult mental illness. Our ultimate goal is to generate information to reduce mental illness in minority communities.
The proposed longitudinal project is the first to investigate the long-term effects of early experiences of minority status and acculturation on Latino young-adult mental illness. It holds much promise for understanding the individual, family and neighborhood-level factors to target for interventions to prevent the onset of major depression disorder and anxiety and depressive symptoms in minority youth and young adults.