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Formal and Informal Mental Health Services Utilization and Psychological Well-Being among Latinas Open Access

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Latinas are part of the largest ethnic minority group in the US and have significant rates of mood and anxiety disorders. Despite their prevalence of mental illness, Latinas seek mental health services less often than their Black and White counterparts. This study employed the Andersen Behavioral Model (Andersen, 1995), a sociological model typically used for medical service use, to elucidate some factors that predict the formal and informal mental health service use of Latinas in the US. This study included a nationally representative sample of 1,298 Latinas (31.90% Mexican, 26.00% Other Latino, 22.70% Cuban, 19.50% Puerto Rican) from the National Latino and Asian American Survey (Alegría et al., 2004). Population characteristics (predisposing, enabling, need) were examined to determine which factors predicted formal and informal mental health service utilization. Acculturation-based characteristics (i.e., ethnic subgroup, years in the US, English language ability) were given emphasis as factors unique to Latinas in the US. In this study, Latinas had relatively low one-year utilization rates of formal (13.2%) and informal (4.4%) mental health services. Increased use of formal mental health services was predicted by Cuban and Puerto Rican ethnic subgroup, presence of insurance, employment status (i.e., out of work force), and increased psychiatric distress. Interactions suggested that years in the US and English language ability play important roles in formal mental health service use among Latinas, but particularly for Cuban women. Increased use of informal mental health services was predicted by Other Latinas ethnic subgroup, fewer years in the US, and increased psychiatric distress. Use of formal and informal mental health services were significantly related to each other. Specifically, Latinas who used an informal service were very likely to have also used a formal service; the converse was not true. Clinical and research recommendations are offered based on these findings.

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