Older Latino Mental Health: A Complicated Picture

Daniel E. Jimenez, David Martinez Garza, Verónica Cárdenas, Mariá Marquine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The aggregation of Latino subgroups in national studies creates an overly simplistic narrative that Latinos are at lower risk of mental illness and that foreign nativity seems protective against mental illness (i.e., immigrant paradox). This broad generalization does not hold up as the Latino population ages. Given that social inequalities for risk appear to widen with age, the social disadvantages of being Latino in the United States increase the risk for mental illness across the life span. This review focuses on the mental health of older Latinos, specifically the 3 subgroups with the longest residential history in the United States-Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, and Cubans. We examine relevant epidemiological and clinical psychopathology studies on aging in these Latino populations and present evidence of the heterogeneity of the older Latino population living in the United States, thus illustrating a limitation in this field-combining Latino subgroups despite their diversity because of small sample sizes. We address the migration experience-how intraethnic differences and age of migration affect mental health- A nd discuss social support and discrimination as key risk and protective factors. We conclude with a discussion on meeting the mental health needs of older Latinos with a focus on prevention, a promising approach to addressing mental illness in older Latinos, and future directions for mental health research in this population. Success in this endeavor would yield a substantial reduction in the burden of late-life depression and anxiety and a positive public health impact.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberigaa033
JournalInnovation in Aging
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2020


  • Mental health
  • Mental health treatment and prevention
  • Migration history
  • Older Latino

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Health Professions (miscellaneous)
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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