Social determinants of health and mental health among Asian Americans in the United States

I. Kim, Juan Chen, M.S. Spencer

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


Although Asian Americans are one of the fastest growing ethnic minority groups in the United States, research on this population continues to lag behind that on other minorities. In this article, we take factors recognized as critical elements to the physical and mental health outcomes of Asian Americans and apply the social determinants of health (SDH) framework to reconceptualize these factors as structural or intermediary factors. This study uses a nationally representative sample of Asian Americans from the National Latino and Asian American Study (N = 2,067) to examine the relationships between the SDH factors and 4 physical and mental health outcomes (chronic conditions, diagnosable mental health disorders, self-rated physical health, self-rated mental health). Negative binomial, logistic, and ordinary least squares regression analyses are modeled to estimate these associations. The results show that structural and intermediary factors are significantly associated with all 4 health outcomes. The associations vary by outcome measure, generational status, and ethnic background. Findings indicate that structural factors, such as ethnicity, poverty, and generational status are not trivial to Asian Americans’ physical and mental health. Understanding the impact of intermediary factors, including insurance status, discrimination, and English-language proficiency, from the context of the Asian American experience can be helpful in dispelling the “model minority” stereotype that remains prevalent.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)346-361
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of the Society for Social Work and Research
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • Asian American
  • Social determinants of health
  • Poverty
  • Discrimination
  • English-language proficiency
  • Generational status


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