Mental Health Research: Introduction & Methods

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This is part of our Mental Health & Latino Kids: A Research Review »

Introduction

Currently, over 56 million Latinos live in the United States, making up almost 18 percent of the total U.S. population.

By 2060, it’s projected that there will be 119 million Latinos in the U.S.1

In addition to being the largest racial or ethnic minority group in the country, Latinos are also the youngest: 17.9 million Latinos, or roughly one third of the U.S. Latino population, are under the age of 18.

Even more striking, almost half of U.S.-born Latinos are younger than 18.2

Latino youth are more likely to have mental health issues than their peers, a concern that should be taken even more seriously considering the growing population of young Latinos in the U.S.

Twenty-two percent of Latino youth have depressive symptoms, a rate higher than any minority group besides Native American youth.3

The U.S. Office of Minority Health has found that Latina adolescents have the highest rates of suicidal ideation and suicide attempt, and, while lower than Latinas, Latino adolescent males have higher rates of suicidal ideation and suicide attempt than their white peers.4 According to data from the National Latino and Asian American Study (NLAAS), most suicide attempts by Latinos occurred prior to age 18, with Latino females twice as likely as males to attempt suicide.5

Despite the high rate of mental health issues faced by Latino children and adolescents, there are disparities in how they use and receive mental health services.

This Salud America! research review summarizes current evidence regarding the incidence of mental health problems among Latino children compared to their peers, the utilization of mental health services among Latino children and adolescents, contributors to mental health problems among Latino children and adolescents, and the efficacy of interventions aimed at addressing these issues.

Methodology

This research review summarizes available peer-reviewed scientific literature regarding the incidence and causes of mental health problems among Latino children and adolescents, disparities in the receipt of mental health services in this population, and interventions created to address these disparities.

Keyword searches were conducted in PubMed and Google Scholar.

Databases were searched with key terms such as: “mental health AND Latino children,” mental health AND Latino adolescents,” “suicidal behavior AND Latino adolescents,” “mental health AND intervention AND Latino children,” “mental health AND intervention AND Latino adolescents,” “mental health AND Latino infants,” “physical activity AND mental health AND Latino children,” “physical activity AND mental health AND Latino adolescents,” “neighborhood safety AND mental health AND Latino children,” ‘prevention AND mental health AND Latino children,” “emotional well-being AND Latino children,” and “schools AND mental health AND Latino children.”

Article titles and abstracts were examined; relevant articles were retrieved and reviewed, regardless of the study’s conclusions regarding the mental health and emotional well-being of Latino children and adolescents. Additional articles were identified through searches of the references of the initial set of articles found through keyword searches.

The studies must have stated in the study abstract and/or methods that ethnicity was considered in the analysis or must have included a high proportion of Latinos in the study population. Search limits were confined to the English language.

More from our Mental Health & Latino Kids: A Research Review »

References for this section »

1. United States Census Bureau. Hispanic Heritage Month 2016. (2016). Available at: https://www.census.gov/newsroom/facts-for-features/2016/cb16-ff16.html. (Accessed: 15th December 2016)

2. Patten, E. The Nation’s Latino Population Is Defined by Its Youth. Pew Research Center’s Hispanic Trends Project (2016).

3. Guzman, A., Koons, A. & Postolache, T. Suicidal behavior in Latinos: Focus on the youth. Int J Adolesc Med Health 21, 431–439 (2009).

4. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health. Mental Health and Hispanics. (2016). Available at: https://minorityhealth.hhs.gov/Default.aspx. (Accessed: 16th December 2016)

5. Goldston, D. B. et al. Cultural Considerations in Adolescent Suicide Prevention and Psychosocial Treatment. Am. Psychol. 63, 14–31 (2008).

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By The Numbers By The Numbers

22

PERCENT

of Latino youth have depressive symptoms (a rate higher than most other groups).

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