Mental health in a colonia

Guadalupe Marquez-Velarde, University of Texas at El Paso


Mental health outcomes in colonias are the main focus of this thesis. They were examined in the colonia of Westway, which is an unplanned settlement in El Paso County with high poverty rates and adjacent to the Interstate highway, a steel plant and other polluting industries with a 97.3% Hispanic population (U.S. Census Bureau, 2010 Census). Data were collected through a door-to-door social survey in order to achieve three research objectives. In the first objective, I compared the prevalence of mental health outcomes in Westway and El Paso and found that the colonia residents do have significantly higher rates of negative mental health outcomes for 50% of the conditions tested. For the second objective, I drew from the environmental justice literature to examine the connection between environmental concerns and mental health outcomes in this low-income population and discovered that industrial concerns (e.g. accidental release of industrial chemicals, odors, smoke and fumes, noise and hazardous waste sites) were significantly related to increased stress and worry and psychological symptoms of distress in the last four weeks. Lastly, I assessed the relationship between features of Hispanic ethnic status (i.e., English language proficiency and nativity) and mental health outcomes and determined that higher acculturation does increase stress and worry, but does not have a significant effect on other mental health variables and that being born in the U.S. (as opposed to in another country) decreases the likelihood of developing mental illnesses within this low-income group. The findings of this study contribute to the understanding of the understudied topic of mental health outcomes among poor residents living in colonias.

Subject Area

Mental health|Environmental Justice|Hispanic American studies

Recommended Citation

Marquez-Velarde, Guadalupe, "Mental health in a colonia" (2013). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI1539967.