JOURNAL ARTICLE

Transnational ties and past-year major depressive episodes among Latino immigrants

Carmela Alcántara, Chih-Nan Chen, Margarita Alegría
Cultural Diversity & Ethnic Minority Psychology 2015, 21 (3): 486-95
25090146
Latino immigrants live in an increasingly global world in which maintaining contact with kin in the home country is easier than ever. We examined (a) the annual distribution of remittances burden (percentage of remittances/household income) and visits to the home country, (b) the association of these transnational ties with a past-year major depressive episode (MDE), and (c) moderation by Latino subethnicity or gender. We conducted weighted logistic regression analyses with the Latino immigrant subsample (N = 1,614) of the National Latino and Asian American Study. Mexican and Other Latino immigrants had greater remittances burden than Puerto Rican migrants. Cuban immigrants made the fewest visits back home. After adjustment for sociodemographics and premigration psychiatric history, remittances burden decreased odds of MDE (odds ratio [OR] = 0.80, 95% confidence interval [CI] [0.67, .0.98]), whereas visits back home increased odds of MDE (OR = 1.04, 95% CI [1.01, 1.06]). Latino subethnicity was not a significant moderator. Visits back home were more strongly linked to depression among women than men. The distribution of transnational ties differs by Latino subgroup, although its association with depression is similar across groups. Monetary giving through remittances might promote a greater sense of self-efficacy, and caregiving for relatives back home that positively affect mental health. Visits back home, especially for women, might signal social stress from strained relationships with kin, spouses, or children left behind, or increased caregiving demands that negatively affect mental health. Clinical practice with immigrants should routinely assess the social resources and strains that fall outside national borders.

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