Bmj Usa: Editorial

Improving the mental health of Asian Americans: Depends on training primary care clinicians and educating the community

BMJ 2003; 327 doi: (Published 19 November 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;327:E161
  1. Henry Chung, medical director, depression and anxiety disease management team (,
  2. Gavin Yamey, deputy editor (
  1. Pfizer Inc, New York, NY.
  2. Western Journal of Medicine, San Francisco, CA

    From BMJ USA 2002;November:601

    Asian Americans suffer a disproportionate burden of disability from mental illness. Yet compared to whites they have less access to mental health services, receive poorer quality mental health care, and are under-represented in mental health research.1 The September 2002 issue of the Western Journal of Medicine ( looked at ways of improving the mental health care of this fast growing minority group.

    One of the problems in looking at the evidence on the mental health of Asian Americans is that the term “Asian American” includes at least 43 different ethnic groups, which have their origins in countries as diverse as China, Japan, Laos, India, and the Philippines. Therefore, the conclusions drawn from analyses using “Asian American” as a single ethnic category may be very different from those made when specific ethnic groups are examined.

    Nevertheless, the available data suggest that the burden of mental health distress is high among Asian Americans. Community studies using mental disorder symptom scales show that Asian Americans have a higher prevalence of symptoms compared to whites.2 In a survey of a random sample of Chinese Americans in Los Angeles, using a standard diagnostic interview, 7% reported that they had experienced neurasthenia.3 This syndrome of persistent and distressing fatigue is considered …

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