Perceived Discrimination and Suicide Ideation: Moderating Roles of Anxiety Symptoms and Ethnic Identity among Asian American, African American, and Hispanic Emerging Adults
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Suicide is one of the leading causes of death in the United States. It is more common among emerging adults than among older adults (CDC, 2014). Two factors that have received empirical support as independent predictors of suicide ideation are perceived discrimination (Gomez, Miranda, & Polanco, 2011) and anxiety symptoms (Cheng et al., 2010). However, to date, no studies have examined perceived discrimination and anxiety symptoms as simultaneous predictors of suicide ideation despite literature and theory indicating these variables activate similar pathways (Smith, Allen, & Danley, 2007). Furthermore, ethnic identity has been shown to mitigate suicide risk in the face of other stressors (Walker, Wingate, Obasi, & Joiner, 2008). This study assessed the moderating effect of anxiety symptoms on the relationship between perceived discrimination and suicide ideation in a multi-ethnic sample of emerging adults. A further analysis determined whether ethnic identity further moderated this relationship. The results indicated that anxiety symptoms moderated the perceived discrimination-suicide ideation relationship for Hispanic emerging adults, but not for their Asian and African American counterparts. The Johnson-Neyman technique revealed that when anxiety symptoms exceeded the 23rd percentile, suicide ideation increased for Hispanic emerging adults as reports of perceived discrimination increased. Ethnic identity further interacted with perceived discrimination and anxiety symptoms to predict suicide ideation among Hispanic emerging adults. The Johnson-Neyman technique revealed that the interaction between perceived discrimination and anxiety symptoms was a significant predictor of suicide ideation when ethnic identity was below the 94th percentile. Thus, when ethnic identity was very high, it protected against the effects of perceived discrimination and anxiety symptoms on suicide ideation. The implications of these findings are discussed.