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Cultural Factors Influencing Asian American Mental Health

Culture influences traditional Asian belief systems which affect diagnosis and treatment of mental health disorders. There are several cultural key factors that are relevant in this process, however it is important to note that Asian cultures can tremendously vary within groups. These factors differ for everyone depending on acculturation, socioeconomic status and immigration status. In this post we will focus on new immigrants, who make up 1% of the US population. New Asian immigrants who make up 1% of the US population are most likely to experience barriers in mental health care.


  • Language – Having proficiency in English is one of the most important factors contributing to access of mental health care in the United States.
  • Level of acculturation – It may be harder for immigrant families to accept western medical care due to not fully adopting to western culture.
  • Age – Younger individuals who migrate to the west are more reluctant able to adapt to living in western culture.
  • Gender – Research has shown that men typically adapt to living in the west faster than women, however this may be changing. Women may also withdraw from conflict with their spouse to maintain harmony in the family.
  • Occupational Issues- Some professionals are not able to access their previous careers due to language barriers, and licensing or verification issues.
  • Family Structure and Intergenerational Issues – Traditionally, Asians place great importance on the value of family. There is great focus on the larger needs of the family rather than ones own individual needs.
  • Religious Beliefs and Spirituality – Asians who are not predominantly Christian or Muslim practice Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, and Animism.
  • Traditional Beliefs About Mental Health – In Asian traditional belief systems mental health conditions are caused by a lack of mental emotional harmony, or evil spirits. With integration of psychological and physiological functions, mental wellness is achieved. Some Asian elders share the belief of karma and past lives, cause and effect. So, what we experience in this life is from past life transgressions.


  • Peer pressure to smoke, drink alcohol, and have sex.
  • Pressure to conform to western societal norms of individualism which brings about a conflict with a traditional family based upbringing.
  • Avoiding conflict, respect for authority, and deference are not understood in western majority culture.
  • New immigrants may find it difficult to cope with the demands of western culture.
  • Anti Asian Sentiment


It’s very important that health care professionals be culturally competent so that they can serve the best of unbiased and non judgmental care. Health care professionals must reassure their patients that they can talk about what care they need without judgement. Identifying sources of support amongst Asian immigrants may also better help health care professionals in helping their patients. By having culturally competent health care professionals, immigrants will find better treatment and services for their unique mental health needs.



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