Racial and ethnic variations in physical and mental health




Rafique, Sadaf M.

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Over the past two decades, disparities in health among different racial/ethnic minority groups have become a prevalent public health issue in the United States. Accordingly, there has been an emerging body of research on racial/ethnic variations across health outcomes. This study is designed to shed further light on the relationship between physical and mental health in the context of race/ethnicity using a subsample of adults 18 years and older from the 2007--2008 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Several theoretical explanations are synthesized to examine the linkages between physical and mental health across different racial/ethnic groups including Mexican Americans, African Americans, multiracial and other racial/ethnic groups. Binary logistic regression and Ordinary Least Squares (OLS) regression models are employed to test hypotheses pertaining to racial/ethnic variations in physical and mental health. Results from logistic regression models support existing literature on the link between race/ethnicity and physical health; that is, Mexican Americans and African Americans exhibit increased odds of poorer physical health status than non-Hispanic whites. Results from OLS regression models reveal that while Mexican Americans are more likely than non-Hispanic whites to have higher BMI, they have significantly fewer depressive symptoms. These patterns can be attributed to an emphasis on familism and an extended social support network that mitigates the negative effects of poor physical health on mental health. However, the linkages between physical health and mental health do not vary greatly across racial/ethnic groups as surmised. Both theoretical and policy implications are discussed.


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Biopsychosocial Model, Mental Health, Physical Health, Racial/Ethnic Variations