Arab American Communities and Mental Health

Arab Americans trace their ancestry to various waves of immigrants from the countries comprising the Arab World, including the Middle East and parts of North Africa.

Arab Americans are diverse in terms of cultural norms, country of origin, and religious affiliations. Roughly 23 percent of Arab Americans are Muslim.

There are nearly 3.5 million Arab Americans in the United States, according to The Arab American Institute. Because this ethnic group is not classified under the U.S. census, it goes largely unstudied.

Other Factors

Treatment concerns

Arab Americans are more likely to seek counsel from family instead of mental health professionals when experiencing mental health symptoms.

There is also a high prevalence of stigma in Arab American communities, which may prevent some individuals from seeking mental health care.

Arab Americans understand mental health conditions to have a spiritual or supernatural component, which differs from the U.S. medical understanding. According to a pilot study assessing attitudes toward depression in Arab American Muslims, 34.7 percent of respondents reported that black magic or evil eye could cause depression.


Arab Americans who migrated to the U.S. due to political violence and religious persecution in their home countries are more likely to experience higher levels of depression and anxiety.

In the wake of the September 11th terrorist attacks, Arab Americans have been the targets of discrimination, harassment, and hate crimes. Ongoing conflicts in the Middle East have exacerbated stereotypes about people of Arab descent.

Arab Americans who experienced harassment or abuse because of their identity report higher levels of psychological distress, lower levels of happiness, and worse health status.

Some Arab Americans are targeted for harassment and abuse because of their Muslim faith. Experiencing islamophobia is associated with poor mental health, according to a meta-analysis of studies.

Arab American Communities and Mental Health

Quick Facts

  • Arab American immigrants who cited political violence and religious persecution as reasons for immigration had heightened levels of depression and anxiety. (BMC Psychiatry)
  • Some research points to the stress of acculturation being a factor in high depression rates among Arab Americans. (National Library of Medicine)
  • In one study, Arab Americans were found to be more likely to lack health insurance, live below the federal poverty level, and lack home ownership than non-Hispanic whites, despite their elevated levels of education and low rates of unemployment. (BMC Public Health)


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