The link between resilience and health and wellbeing in Latino immigrants

Written by Keri Revens, PhD, MS, CHES

Stress is a normal part of life and can be positive- like meeting a deadline, or negative- like experiencing a loss or traumatic event. Stress that lasts for a long time can be detrimental to mental and physical wellbeing. The ability to “bounce back” or recover from stress- resilience- can reduce the negative effects of stress, protecting against mental health disorders like depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder; and chronic diseases like high blood pressure, insomnia, and heart disease. Although not everyone is resilient, resilience is a skill that can be developed over time. Evidence shows individual traits like optimism, problem-solving, and communication, and community and social supports increase resilience across several groups, including white, black, and Asian children and adults. However, there is little research on what increases resilience in Latinos.

Latinos are the fastest growing minority group in Charlotte, making up 13% of the population. Almost 70% of Latinos are immigrants, meaning they were born outside the US in a country of Latin descent. Immigrants experience significant adversity that increases the risk of mental health disorders. Some of these experiences include trauma before, during, and after migration; issues related to acculturation- adjusting to life between two cultures; language barriers; discrimination; and poverty. Increasing resilience can offset those negative effects and prevent the onset of mental health problems after settlement in the US. To increase resilience, we must first understand what factors influence it.

See the full infographic summary of the research in  English  and  Spanish .

See the full infographic summary of the research in English and Spanish.

Keri Revens, consultant at Common Good Data, conducted a study to better understand factors associated with Latino immigrants for her doctoral dissertation. The study was conducted in partnership with the Academy for Research on Community Health Engagement and Services at UNCC, Camino Community Center, and Camino Church using principles of community-based participatory research, a community-directed approach to research. A community advisory board made up of Latino immigrants assisted with all aspects of the project, including design, implementation, and dissemination. 128 participants completed in-person survey interviews in Spanish; surveys measured resilience, psychological distress, family support, social support, religion, and ethnic identity. Findings show higher levels of social support and religion result in higher levels of resilience and lower levels of psychological distress. Focus groups were conducted with 23 of the participants to better understand how religion and social support increase resilience.

[Listen to Keri on The Helping Hands of Our Community Podcast on the topic of resilience]

Social support increases resilience through emotional support, social integration, and community resources. Having people to turn to and spend time with helps people cope during difficult times. Religion influences resilience through prayer and scripture, providing feelings of calm and relief during times of stress. Religion also provides social support through the church. Many Latinos are separated from family members and turn to others for support, including the church family, friends, neighbors, and others in the community.

It is important Latinos feel connected to others and that they are part of a community. Peer support groups through community organizations and churches play a significant role in the mental wellbeing of those they serve. Latinos also need access to culturally and linguistically appropriate mental health and social services. For more information, check out these infographics in English and Spanish, or contact Keri Revens at keri@commongooddata.com.

Andrew Reynolds