Predictors of well-being and depression among Latino college students



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Latinos are one of the fastest growing minority groups in the United States. It is estimated that by the year 2050 approximately 25 percent of the United States population will be Latino (U.S. Department of Health & Human services, 2001). However, only approximately 10 percent of all Latinos in the United States possess a college degree (Saunders & Serna, 2004; Yazedjian & Towes, 2006). In addition to the typical college stressors faced by most students as they transition from high school to college, it is believed that Latino students experience unique challenges as an ethnic and cultural minority group within the academic community (Rodriguez, et al). These challenges produce stress which affects students’ well-being. Psychological symptoms such as anxiety and depression result from stress; thus, the study of stress among Latino college students may assist in formulating prevention and intervention strategies to increase Latino students’ college retention (Rosenthal & Schreiner, 2000).
The objectives of this study were to examine the relative contribution of general college stress and minority student college stress to depression and well-being among Latino college students, controlling for gender and college generational status. Three dimensions of general college stress (academic, social and financial) and two dimensions of minority college stress (interracial and achievement) were examined. Participants were 229 students (77% women) enrolled in the second most ethnically diverse major research university of the United States. Forty seven percent of participants were first generation college students, meaning that neither their fathers nor mothers had attended college. The measures used to examine the variables of interest included the College Stress Scale (CSS), the Minority Student Stress Scale (MSSS), the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale (CES-D), and the General Well-being Schedule (GWBS).
Results of preliminary analyses revealed very few gender and college generational status differences in the variables of interest: males reported higher levels of well-being than females and first generation college students reported higher levels of achievement stress than non-first generation students. Results of two hierarchical regression analyses (that controlled for gender and college generational status) indicated that minority college stress contributed unique variance to well-being (R2=.36, ∆R2 =.05, p=.01) and depression (R2=.38, ∆R2 =.10, p=.001) above and beyond the variance contributed by the three general college stress variables. Inspection of the Beta coefficients in the two final models indicated that (a) one general stress variable (social) and two minority stress variables (interracial and achievement) contributed unique variance to well-being, and (b) one general stress variable (social) and one minority stress variable (achievement) contributed unique variance to depression. In all cases, higher levels of stress were associated to lower levels of well-being and to higher levels of depression symptoms. In sum, findings suggested that as expected, stressors related to belonging to an ethnic minority group contributed uniquely to Latino college students’ emotional well-being. Secondly, stress related to social relations (in general and among ethnic minority students) and to academic achievement emerged as most salient for Latino students. The implications of the findings for further research and service delivery to Latino college students are discussed.



Well-being, Depression, Stress, Latina/o college students