, Volume 21, Issue 1, pp 50-67

Physical health and social network characteristics as determinants of mental health across cultures

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This study examines cross-cultural differences in the etiology of depression and anxiety, two common indicators of mental health problems. Using an ethnically diverse sample of 162 college students, we found that chronic physical symptoms and social network characteristics, particularly network quality, were predictive of both depression and anxiety, yet their effects were mediated by ethnicity. Multiple regression analyses showed that social network quality, compared to physical health, was a much stronger predictor of mental health in Caucasian students, whereas among students of Asian/Pacific descent, physical health was a much stronger predictor of mental health than the social network characteristics. The observed differences were particularly strong for anxiety, which was not significantly associated with physical health in Caucasian students or social network size and quality in the Asian/Pacific group. Theoretical and clinical implications of the results are discussed.