Political violence, psychosocial trauma, and the context of mental health services use among immigrant Latinos in the United States

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Psychiatry

Publication Date


Document Type



Adolescent; Adult; Aged; Community Mental Health Services; Emigrants and Immigrants; Female; *Hispanic Americans; Humans; Interpersonal Relations; Male; *Mental Health; Middle Aged; *Politics; Prevalence; Psychological Tests; Psychometrics; Risk Factors; Social Support; Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic; Stress, Psychological; United States; Violence; Young Adult


Health Services Research | Mental and Social Health | Psychiatric and Mental Health | Psychiatry | Psychiatry and Psychology


OBJECTIVES: We present the prevalence of exposure to political violence (PV) among Latino immigrants in the US, and perceived need for and correlates of mental health services use among this population.

METHODS: We use the National Latino and Asian American Study (NLAAS), a nationally representative epidemiological survey of US Latinos, including a probability sample of 1630 immigrant Latinos. Our conceptual framework assumes a strong role of social and cultural factors in understanding the risk for psychopathology and mental health service use.

RESULTS: Eleven percent of all immigrant Latinos reported PV exposure and 76% described additional lifetime traumas. Among those with a history of PV, an increased likelihood of using mental health services was associated with female gender, English language proficiency, experiencing personal assaults, higher perceived discrimination, and having an anxiety or substance disorder. Latino men and specific subgroups of Latinos were less likely to access mental health services after experiencing PV. Perceived need for mental health services use is the strongest correlate of any lifetime and last-12-months service use.

CONCLUSIONS: Individuals who come from countries with a history of political violence often have multiple traumatic experiences. This suggests a need for systematic screening for trauma and related psychiatric disorders. Specific outreach interventions focused on perceptions of need could be helpful for subgroups of Latinos including men who are particularly underrepresented in mental health services but who exhibit significant trauma histories.

DOI of Published Version



Ethn Health. 2008 Nov 1;13(5):435-63. Link to article on publisher's site

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Ethnicity and health

Related Resources

Link to Article in PubMed

PubMed ID