Major depressive disorder and dysthymia disparities between U.S.-Born and foreign-born Chinese Americans

Fei Sun, Jaewon Lee, Sizhe Liu, Jana Wardian, Man Guo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


This study aimed to shed light on factors that contribute to the differences in lifetime major depressive disorder (MDD) and lifetime dysthymia between U.S.-born and foreign-born Chinese American adults. Secondary data on a nationally representative sample of 598 Chinese Americans were retrieved from the National Latino and Asian American Study. MDD and dysthymia over the lifetime were evaluated against the diagnostic criteria for Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (fourth edition). The prevalence rates of lifetime MDD and dysthymia were 11.5% and 1.8%, respectively. Being U.S.-born was associated with higher likelihood of lifetime MDD and dysthymia. U.S.-born Chinese Americans reported higher English language competence, greater family cohesion, more informal coping, and increased perceived discrimination compared to their foreign-born counterparts. Mediation analyses found that reliance on informal coping for emotional challenges partially explained why U.S.-born Chinese Americans had a higher degree of lifetime MDD. Despite greater acculturation, U.S.-born Chinese Americans are not better off than their foreign-born counterparts in terms of MDD and dysthymia disorders. Reliance on informal networks to manage emotional difficulties might not be ideal. Mental health education and intervention programs for Chinese residing in the United States should help prevent and negotiate stressors (e.g., family conflicts) as well as facilitate effective help-seeking for mental health challenges.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)138-146
Number of pages9
JournalAsian American Journal of Psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Chinese Americans
  • Dysthymia
  • Informal coping
  • Major depressive disorder

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


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