Ethnic differences in behavioral and physiological indicators of sensitivity to threat


The clinical presentation of anxiety may differ between Hispanics/Latinx (H/L) and non-H/L, although findings on ethnic differences in self-reported anxiety symptoms have been mixed. Fewer studies have focused on ethnic differences in quick and relatively automatic laboratory-assessed indicators of anxiety symptoms, which have the potential to be more objective indicators than self-report. Therefore, the present study examined ethnic differences in two laboratory-assessed indicators of threat sensitivity (an important transdiagnostic mechanism of anxiety): attentional bias to threat and electromyography startle reactivity to threat. White H/L (n = 117) and White non-H/L (n = 168) adults who were matched on demographics and lifetime psychopathology (including anxiety) completed a dot-probe task to assess attentional bias to threat and the No-Predictable-Unpredictable threat (NPU) task to assess startle reactivity to threat. Results indicated that H/L displayed less Slow Orientation (β = −0.27, p = 0.032), and increased Slow Disengagement (β = 0.31, p = 0.016) compared to non-H/L. H/L exhibited blunted overall startle compared to non-H/L (β = −0.30, p = 0.014), but groups did not differ in startle reactivity to either predictable or unpredictable threat. In summary, H/L and non-H/L may differ in their experience and presentation of anxiety symptoms and such differences may vary across indicators of sensitivity to threat.

Journal of Anxiety Disorders