Disparities in mental health care utilization and perceived need among Asian Americans: 2012-2016

Kelly Guanhua Yang, Caryn R.R. Rodgers, Esther Lee, Benjamin Lê Cook

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


Objective: The objective was to examine mental health treatment access disparities between Asians and whites in the United States as well as the role of perceived and objective need and barriers to treatment in these disparities. Methods: Data are five annual cross-sections (2012-2016) of responses from Asian Americans and whites to the nationally representative National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Multivariate logistic regression analyses adjusting for sociodemographic factors were conducted to compare past-year treatment access rates between Asians and whites across three need subgroups: those with perceived need for treatment, those with past-year serious psychological distress, and those with a past-year major depressive episode. Barriers to treatment were compared between Asians and whites with perceived need. Results: Asians were less likely than whites to have accessed mental health treatment in the past year in all analyses. Compared with Asians with need determined by structured diagnostic instruments, Asians with perceived need had higher rates of mental health care access, but even among respondents with perceived need, the disparity between whites and Asians remained. Regarding barriers to treatment, only one barrier (not knowing where to go for treatment) was more likely to be reported for Asians than whites. Conclusions: Differences between Asians and whites in perceived need for mental health treatment do not explain the wide disparities in mental health care access between these two groups. Clinical interventions improving the relevance and fit of mental health care and community-based outreach interventions increasing awareness of available services are needed to improve access to mental health treatment among Asians.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)21-27
Number of pages7
JournalPsychiatric Services
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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