Social cohesion, social support, and health among Latinos in the United States

Norah E Mulvaney-Day, Margarita Alegría, William Sribney
Social Science & Medicine 2007, 64 (2): 477-95
The role of individual versus community level social connections in promoting health is an important factor to consider when addressing Latino health. This analysis examines the relationships between social support, social cohesion, and health in a sample of Latinos in the United States. Using data from the National Latino and Asian American Study, the analysis uses ordered logistic regression to explore the relationships of family support, friend support, family cultural conflict, and neighborhood social cohesion with self-rated physical and mental health, taking into account language proficiency and use, nativity, and sociodemographic variables. Family support, friend support, and neighborhood social cohesion were positively related to self-rated physical and mental health, and family cultural conflict was negatively related when controlled only for sex and age. After controlling for education, income, and other demographic measures, only family support was found to have a weak association with self-rated physical health; however, the relationship seemed to be mediated by language. In contrast, family support and family cultural conflict were strongly associated with self-rated mental health, after controlling for language, education, income, and other demographic measures. The study did not find neighborhood social cohesion to be significantly related to either self-rated physical or mental health, after accounting for the effects of the other social connection variables. Language of interview did not explain the highly significant effects of language proficiency and use. Social connections are important for health and mental health, but language and other sociodemographic factors seem to be related to how Latinos establish these social linkages. Further investigation into the role of language in the development and maintenance of social connections may help unravel the mechanisms by which they promote or decrease health.


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