The Influence of Pre-Migration Factors and Post-Migration Climate of the Receiving Community on the Psychological Distress of Latino Immigrants

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Over forty million foreign-born residents currently live in the United States. Latinos make up the largest population of immigrants living in the U.S. Previous research suggests that Latino immigrants often experience pre-migration stressors, such as traumatic experiences, political upheaval, and unplanned migration. These stressors may have a negative impact on immigrants’ post-migration mental health. Research also suggests that the post-migration climate of the receiving community may inform the connection between pre-migration experiences and post-migration mental health.

The current study examined the relationship between Latino immigrants’ reasons for migration, migration planning, and pre-migration experience of political and/or interpersonal violence, and post-migration symptoms of psychological distress. In addition to examining the effect of these pre-migration factors, the current study also examined the community “climate” experienced by Latino immigrants post-migration by

assessing the influence of three post-migration factors: 1) community support and engagement, 2) discrimination, and 3) employment. The study was a secondary analysis of data collected for the National Latino and Asian American Study, which focused on the mental health and service utilization of Latinos and Asian Americans. Participants included 1,629 Latino immigrants from across the United States.

Results indicated that pre-migration experience of political and/or interpersonal trauma, post-migration experience of discrimination, and female sex were positively associated with psychological distress. Post-migration employment was negatively associated with psychological distress. In addition, discrimination modified the association between unplanned migration and psychological distress; the relationship between unplanned migration and psychological distress decreased for participants who reported more discrimination. Furthermore, employment modified the association between political and/or interpersonal trauma and psychological distress; the connection between trauma and psychological distress increased among those who reported having less employment. Recommendations for further research were presented. Policy and clinical practice implications were discussed, particularly given the current climate of high anti-immigrant sentiment and hostility in the U.S.