Religious involvement has been shown to buffer daily stress experienced by marginalized ethnic minorities, and faith-based organizations have historically served as sites for public health interventions and research subject recruitment for community-residing ethnic minorities. Although most Asian Americans tend to experience stress related to ethnic minority status and acculturation—and the significant role of religion and faith-based organizations in providing spiritual and social support is well known—only limited studies have been conducted in the area of religion and mental health with Asian Americans. It is imperative to understand the characteristics of Asian Americans with different religious affiliations due to their growing population, the tendency of many Asian Americans to live outside of traditional ethnic enclaves, and the increasing use of faith-based organizations as sites for public health interventions or research subject recruitment. The current study addresses the gaps in prior research by comparing the characteristics and mental health outcomes of Asian Americans with different religious affiliations, and extends prior research by examining the role of religious affiliation in the relationship between stress and mental health outcomes using culturally nuanced variables. ❧ The present study is a secondary data analysis of the Asian American data from the National Latino and Asian American Study. The sample for the current study includes 1,614 Asian Americans (Chinese, Filipino, and Vietnamese). The current study is composed of two parts. In Aim 1, the demographic, sociocultural, and clinical characteristics of Asian Americans with three different religious affiliations were examined and profiles of each religious group were described in detail. In Aim 2, the moderation effect of religious affiliation on the relationship between stress and health outcomes was examined using structural equation modeling with complex survey data analysis. Latent constructs of culturally nuanced stress (family relationship, discrimination, and financial strain) and psychological distress (using the Kessler 10 measure) were constructed using an item parceling approach, and the moderation effect of religious affiliation was tested using multiple group analysis (having versus not having an affiliation). ❧ The results of Aim 1 showed that the three groups with different religious affiliations varied significantly in terms of demographic, sociocultural, and clinical outcomes. The results of Aim 2 showed that there was a significant positive main effect of stress on mental health outcomes. However, no moderation was found; religious affiliation did not attenuate the impact of stress on any of the three mental health outcomes. ❧ This is the first study examining the relationships among stress, religion, and mental health with a nationally representative community sample of Asian Americans. As scientific investigation of this topic among Asian Americans is relatively new, addressing fundamental research questions is a critical first step to build a body of evidence for reducing mental health disparities. The study findings provide a foundation for developing culturally responsive outreach programs, recruitment strategies for community-based research, and future research directions in the area of religion and mental health.
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