MENTAL HEALTH AMONG ELDERLY INDIANS: CORRELATES AND POLICY PRESCRIPTIONS
There is considerable evidence to suggest that elderly American Indians (aged 45 and over) face severe mental health problems. Yet, there is little empirical evidence of the factors related to the mental health status of this population. The purpose of this research is thus to assess the impact of several theoretically-derived variables on elderly Indian mental health. Stress theory and the stress concept provide the framework for analysis. Multiple regression was employed to test the impact of income, education, physical health, coping, and social support on mental health. These relationships were examined for the entire sample and five sub-samples: males, females, reservation, and urban Indians. Only coping and physical health proved statistically significant and both were significant for all five samples, although the relative strength of the relationships varied between samples. Policy recommendations are made based on these findings. A clearing-house approach to service delivery is advocated as the best approach to handle the amount of variation found within the target population. The research validates the use of the stress process model on a different and an unique population and demonstrates the model's utility in generating and testing hypotheses. Further, a set of reliable constructs have been created out of a secondary data base. Finally, the research has suggested which factors are and are not important in terms of understanding elderly Indian mental health and has begun to structure the debate on what policy ought to be in this area.