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Does Americanism lead to depression in Latinas?

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Depressed and pregnantA recent article in Maternal and Child Health Journal found the more culturally Americanized a pregnant Latina woman is, the more likely she is to be suffering from depression. Hispanic women who speak English or were born in the United States scored higher on the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression (CES-D) Scale.

Based on the abstract, this article's conclusion appears to be badly flawed. The problem is that the CES-D appears to be focused on measuring depression in people coming from American culture. Depression, curiously, appears different in Latino culture. Somatic (physical or physiological) symptoms are much more common, and may include headaches and stomach problems. The cultural place of women, in particular, may lead them to find it inappropriate to express opinions contrary to those held by people in authority over them, which "obviously may interfere with necessary self-disclosure," according to the Mental Health and Aging Website.

It is possible that in this study, Latinas who were less Americanized experienced depressive symptoms more as physical complaints and less as mental or psychic pain. They also may have felt inhibited from giving completely open responses on the questionnaire, even if they was kept confidential, if those responses might be in conflict to what authority figures (husbands, boyfriends, fathers) expected of them. Women who have internalized American cultural values to a greater extent would be more likely to have high scores on an American depression scale.

The abstract does not indicate whether these issues were addressed in the study. If not, it may show only the predictable result that Americanism leads to a specifically American experience of depression in pregnant Latinas.

Image credit: Maria & Michal Parzuchowski. Some rights reserved.

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