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African American Mental Health Module: Final Report

Linda C. Illingworth

KEY WORDS: mental health conditions, question comprehension, health reporting, National Health Interview Survey, questionnaire pretest, cross-cultural reporting differences


This report is one of five exploratory ethnomedical studies sponsored by the Census Bureau and funded by National Center for Health Statistics in anticipation of adding mental health measurements to the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS). To examine possible cross-cultural differences in reporting of mental health conditions, the Census Bureau solicited proposals from ethnographers and medical anthropologists to explore peoples' language and conceptual organization of the mental health domain, specifically depression, anxiety, phobia, and panic. Each study was conducted in a different group, following a similar research protocol. In-depth ethnographic interviews explored health and mental health concepts in an open-ended fashion, then a second set of focused interviews elicited reactions to a set of proposed survey measures of symptoms of anxiety, depression, panic, and phobia. The intent was identify culture-bound disorders which may affect survey reports of mental health conditions, and to comment on the cultural appropriateness and validity of the questions and terms proposed to elicit reports of mental health symptoms. The studies attempted a different approach to questionnaire pretesting by using ethnographic research to inform, refine, and test survey question wordings so they have greater cross-cultural validity.

Illingworth conducted her research among African-Americans in rural, urban, and suburban areas.

CITATION: Linda C. Illingworth. 1992. African American Mental Health Module: Final Report. Study Series (Survey Methodology #2007-17).

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Statistical Research Division

Created: July 19, 2007
Last revised: July 19, 2007

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Source: U.S. Census Bureau | Statistical Research Division | (301) 763-3215 (or |   Last Revised: October 08, 2010