How the Latino approach to relationships yields mental and physical benefits

Scientific proof that being Latino is good for your mental health.

Convivir. Familismo. In Spanish-speaking cultures, there are several terms that describe social relationships as something deeper than friendly conversations and meetups. They’re something to which a person belongs, depends upon, contributes to and supports, and they’re the norm in Latino societies, says Belinda Campos, UCI associate professor of Chicano/Latino studies. And, as it turns out, they provide quite a few health benefits.

“We know, based on lots of research, that close relationships are associated with better psychological and physical health – from improving daily well-being to reducing mental illness relapses and easing the burden of chronic disease,” she says.

For 14 years, Campos has examined factors promoting high-quality relationships, and she’s learned that cultural norms play a very important role. She has published studies on the topic in Emotion, the Journal of Personality & Social Psychology, the Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences, the Journal of Social & Personal Relationships and Cultural Diversity & Ethnic Minority Psychology.

Her findings make clear distinctions among how European Americans and Latino Americans view and conduct relationships.

“In the first group, they’re thought of in terms of independence – the idea that the self is separate from others and you rely on yourself in order to do well,” Campos says. “In Latino culture, there’s more emphasis on interdependence, being connected to others in a more fundamental way. You draw support from relationships, especially the family, and think of yourself as more ‘in it’ with someone else than forging your own path.”

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