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Original Article
September 1998

Lifetime Prevalence of DSM-III-R Psychiatric Disorders Among Urban and Rural Mexican Americans in California

Author Affiliations

From the School of Public Health, University of California–Berkeley (Drs Vega, Alderete, and Catalano); Department of Sociology, San Diego State University, San Diego, Calif (Dr Kolody); Department of Psychology, California State University, Fresno (Dr Aguilar-Gaxiola); and the Mexican Institute of Psychiatry, Mexico City (Dr Caraveo-Anduaga).

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1998;55(9):771-778. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.55.9.771

Background  The Mexican American Prevalence and Services Survey presents lifetime prevalence rates for 12 DSM-III-R psychiatric disorders in a sample of 3012 adults of Mexican origin by place of residence and nativity, and compares these results with those of population surveys conducted in the United States and Mexico.

Methods  The stratified random sample included noninstitutionalized persons aged 18 to 59 years of Mexican origin, who were residents of Fresno County, California. Psychiatric disorders were assessed using a modified version of the World Health Organization Composite International Diagnostic Interview in face-to-face interviews.

Results  Mexican immigrants had lifetime rates similar to those of Mexican citizens, while rates for Mexican Americans were similar to those of the national population of the United States. This difference is attributable to a prevalence rate for any disorder among immigrants of 24.9%, compared with 48.1% among US-born respondents. A higher prevalence for any disorder was reported in urban (35.7%) compared with town (32.1%) or rural (29.8%) areas. Multivariate analyses showed an adjusted effect of country of birth, but not of urban residence.

Conclusions  Despite very low education and income levels, Mexican Americans had lower rates of lifetime psychiatric disorders compared with rates reported for the US population by the National Comorbidity Survey. Psychiatric morbidity among Mexican Americans is primarily influenced by cultural variance rather than socioeconomic status or urban vs rural residence.