Mental Health Factors in Disadvantaged Latino Families


Socioeconomic factor has always been a key predictor of a wide range of critical aspect of human and communal life and wellbeing. The focus of the research is to assess and analyze the connection between socioeconomic status and mental health issues in the Latino community. The community experiences a higher rate of mental health problems and is more prone to suicides due to both external and internal factors. In addition, the community is also more vulnerable to poverty, unemployment, and housing inaccessibility.


Latino community in the United States is the largest minority group, which makes it vital for the economy and an important part of the nation. However, the statistical data and census observations reveal that the proportion of disadvantaged households is one the highest in the community. In addition, the key socioeconomic factors are lower for Latino community members. In the case of mental health, the community is more vulnerable to suicide, depression, anxiety, and distress due to external social and immigration policies as well as improper treatment and unrecognition.

Literature Review

Latino Communities

The emphasis and focus on the research are put on Latino communities and families. It is important to note that there are approximately 60 million Hispanics currently living in the US, which makes it the second-largest ethnic-racial group in America (Maloney, 2018). In other words, it is equal to 18% of the total population, of which 62% include Latinos of Mexican origin (Maloney, 2018). The data suggests that Latino households have a median net worth of $20600, whereas non-Hispanic white households have $171000, which is a significant difference (Maloney, 2018). In addition, only 47% of all Latino families are homeowners, whereas almost 75% of white households own their homes (Maloney, 2018). In the case of poverty rates, 18% of Latino communities live below the poverty line, whereas only 10% of whites live in poverty (Amenta & Smith, 2016). Latino children are twice as likely to be born and raised in a low-income household, which means that “almost 17 percent of Latino children live in a food-insecure household” and “three in five (59 percent) Hispanic children live in low-income families” (Maloney, 2018, p. 17). In other words, major socioeconomic status factors are more inclined to have a negative impact on the Latino community than the general population. Poverty and low income are more common in the community, which means that children are raised in harsher and more hostile conditions, where there is a lack of food security and basic necessities.

Disadvantaged Households

In order to properly assess the research topic of interest, it is important to define the key words. The term disadvantaged refers to a socioeconomic element, which is defined as “people’s access to material and social resources, and their ability to participate in society” (Graham et al., 2019, p. 1237). In other words, a disadvantaged family is the one, which lacks sufficient resources to live and participate in key societal functions. Such a vulnerability can be caused by the lack of education, unemployment, wage gap, health issues, and generational factors. It should be noted that the latter and former factors are highly interconnected because “education, particularly in early childhood, plays a vital role in combating rising social inequalities” (OECD, 2017, para. 2). In addition, it is stated that “children with lower-educated parents have just a 15% chance of attaining tertiary education, whereas, they are four times more likely (63%) to finish university if at least one of their parents has attained tertiary education” (OECD, 2017, para. 6). Therefore, education inequality is a key determinant of generational inequality, and the United States is among nations with larger gaps between advantaged and disadvantaged members of society. It should be noted that disadvantaged “divorced households develop long-term emotional, behavioral, and interpersonal consequences” (Shimkowski et al., 2018, p. 222). These differences further impact the future career prospects as well as knowledge and access to important financial tools.

Cognitive Factors and Mental Health

One of the major implications of socioeconomic distress in the Latino community includes mental health factors. It is stated that “despite the wide prevalence of mental health disorders, Latinos are undertreated for mental health conditions, including major depression, compared with non- Hispanic Whites” (Jalisi et al., 2018, p. 624). In addition, there are also critical cultural elements, which are manifested in doctor-patient miscommunications (Jalisi et al., 2018). In other words, mental health issues among the Latino community are poorly treated and unrecognized. In the case of children, it is stated that “social control was found to have an indirect effect on children’s behavioral problems and cognitive development transmitted through maternal parenting quality and parenting stress” (Choi et al., 2018, p. 476). The state of immigration policies and their enforcement also creates severe distress among not only illegal immigrant Latino community members but also US-born (Lopez et al., 2016). It is stated that “policies requiring individuals to provide evidence of immigration status limit access to resources, whether or not individuals are undocumented” and “constant surveillance and scrutiny of immigration status transforms public space into an area of heightened risk, and undocumented immigrants become less likely to walk their children to school, visit parks or the grocery store, and participate in a range of sociocultural activities” (Lopez et al., 2016, p. 703). Therefore, mental health distress is more widespread in the Latino community, including illegal immigrants, US-born citizens, and documented immigrants. The negative treatment of society on policy and enforcement levels creates a heightened degree of distress and mental health strain on the entire ethnic group.


It should be noted that suicide and suicidal ideations (SI) are extreme examples of psychological and cognitive distress, and the given factor can serve as a strong indicator of the mental health and wellbeing of a community. It is stated that a “greater number of years living in the host country was significantly associated with increased odds of having SI while having citizenship status was associated with lower odds” (Fortuna et al., 2016, p. 15). In addition, “Latinos suffering depression, trauma exposure, and immigration stressors are more likely to experience SI” (Fortuna et al., 2016, p. 15). In other words, Latino communities in the United States are constantly under pressure in regards to immigration stressors, and a significant portion of Latino members are illegal immigrants, which makes the community highly prone to have high suicide rates. The study suggests that religion plays a critical role in suicide rate lowering among US-born Latino individuals, whereas socioeconomic status is more important for foreign-born Latino people (Barranco, 2016). The literature fills the gap in regards to highlighting the overall prevalence of suicide among foreign-born Latino groups, but the causal link for religion is not well-evidenced since it could be a common feature of US-born Latino people.

Nutrition and Physical Health

It is important to note that there is a strong connection between mental health and physical health. It is stated that “there is a strong link between mental health and physical health” and “health policies aiming at changing physical and mental health need to consider not only the direct cross-effects but also the indirect cross-effects between mental health and physical health” (Ohrnberger et al., 2017, p. 42). One of the critical disadvantages among low-income Latino households is food insecurity and poor nutritional access, which translates to the development of major metabolic diseases, such as obesity and diabetes. A cohort study conducted on 168 households from the Latino population indicates that food insecurity has a strong correlational connection with maternal clinical depression, where both factors have predictive capabilities for behavioral issues (Nagata et al., 2018). In other words, the authors of the research claim that food insecurity is a root cause of many social problems in the target group. Although the researchers properly assess the issue of food insecurity in the Latino community as being a major indicator of poverty, the causal assumptions in regards to maternal depression should not be taken as reliable. The main reason is that correlation does not necessarily mean causation, and thus, the study needs to be used only for food insecurity data.

One of the most impactful aspects of food insecurity and poor diet prevalent among Latino households in the United States is obesity. It is important to note that obesity is a metabolic condition, which can make these individuals prone to develop more serious problems, such as diabetes, cardiovascular issues, and even cancer (Ochoa & Berge, 2016). The results of the longitudinal and cross-sectional study reveal that there are three major adult-associated factors, which involve sleep duration, food security and socioeconomic status, physical activity, screen time, and parental influences (Ochoa & Berge, 2016). Although the authors suggest focusing on sleep factors as interventions, one might argue that the overall issue is the result of food insecurity and low income since feeding behavior might be a byproduct of not being able to access healthy food options. Therefore, the study fills the gap in knowledge in regards to common indicators of obesity among Latino adults but fails to properly establish a causational link between them. Another piece of literature addresses the notion of individual-level and home-level diet connections. It should be noted that the overall conclusion is based on the strong associative relationship between home-level and individual-level dietary factors (Kong et al., 2018). In other words, the authors propose to design interventions, which target home-level dietary changes rather than individual-level ones since the latter is a derivative of the former.


Lastly, it should be pointed out that housing is a major problem for the Latino community due to a wide range of social and economic restrictions and pressures, especially on illegal immigrants. A study based on the analysis of data from the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act or HMDA reveals that housing and mortgage disparity is greatest among the Latino population compared to Asians, African Americans, and Whites (Loya, 2021). In addition, the most disadvantaged among the Latino people are black Latinos, which means that these groups are receiving the highest rate of mortgage denials (Loya, 2021). The given research fills a major gap in knowledge as a prime candidate for a cause of housing discrimination experienced by the Latino community. The information is an objective observation and fact, which might be the main reason why the target group faces challenges when it comes to housing. Although there is a possibility that the housing issue is the result of several factors, it is certain that a high mortgage denial rate is among these contributing aspects of disadvantages among Latinos.


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