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Uncovering Unique Challenges: Variation in Unmet Mental Health Needs Among Asian Ethnic Groups in California

July 22, 2021

Policy Brief

Authors: Hin Wing Tse, D. Imelda Padilla-Frausto, PhD, MPH, Joelle Wolstein, PhD, MPP, MA, Susan H. Babey, PhD

Summary: The Asian population is diverse, with a range of experiences, cultural backgrounds, and demographic profiles. However, most research examines Asian ethnic groups as a single, homogeneous group. To better understand the mental health needs of this diverse population, this brief uses 2015–2019 California Health Interview Survey (CHIS) data to examine unmet mental health needs among adults across Asian ethnic groups in California. 

Findings: More than half (51%) of the state’s Asian adults who felt they needed mental health services experienced unmet need for mental health care, with percentages among Asian ethnic groups ranging from 43% of Japanese adults to 61% of Vietnamese adults. And while more than two-thirds (68%) of all Asian adults in the state with serious or moderate psychological distress had unmet need for mental health care, the percentage among different ethnic groups ranged from less than half (45%) among Japanese adults to more than three-quarters (78%) among Vietnamese adults. 

These findings emphasize the importance of examining variation within the Asian population by ethnic group to identify and help meet their disparate needs. Policy recommendations that may help improve the mental well-being of Asian ethnic groups include promoting mental health literacy; increasing access to culturally and linguistically appropriate mental health services; and supporting policies on collecting and reporting disaggregated data on Asian ethnic groups.​

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