An epidemiology analysis finds that acculturative stress, which is a term created to highlight that immigrants straddling two different cultures have greater stress than natives, is the reason Latino youth in Indiana have higher suicide and depression rates than white counterparts.

Young people are forced to be one thing in their homes and then also part of the larger outside culture and the conflict
between Latino teens and their parents regarding what they do and how they should act at, for example, school versus home, adds to the pressure of teenage years.

While examining epidemiological health disparities data, a team of researchers led by Silvia Bigatti of Indiana University noticed that Latino teens in Indiana had a 65 percent higher rate of suicide attempts and a 24 percent higher rate of depression than white teens. 

"When we saw the alarming disparity in suicide attempts and depression rates, we had to ask what could be going on," said Katrina Conrad, community research and outreach coordinator at the school.

With community partner Virna Diaz, director of the Latino Health Organization, they created a participatory research study which examined the link between acculturative stress and depression among 86 Latino adolescents -- 41 males and 45 females between ages 12 and 19. 

"We looked at acculturative stress and depression and ended up finding nearly 60 percent of our participants had some level of depression, which was higher than expected," Conrad said. "Those who had moderate levels of acculturative stress were 10 times more likely to have depression, which was shocking to us."

Further, results indicated that adolescents with low self-mastery, the ability to overcome obstacles, were 6X more likely to experience acculturative stress. Working with additional academic and community partners, the team developed a yearlong program for Latino teens focusing on boosting self-mastery and resiliency called "Your Life. Your Story: Latino Youth Summit." The program began in June with a summer camp and continues with monthly meetings. 

Preliminary results since the program started are promising, Conrad said. After a single week of summer camp, the team found that participants had a statistically significant increase in resilience and a statistically significant decrease in depressive symptoms. At the end of the year, the researchers hope to see that those trends have continued.