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Correlates and Determinants of Psychological Distress between Older Korean Immigrants in the United States and Older Koreans in Korea: A comparative study

  • Author(s): Chang, Miya
  • Advisor(s): Moon, Ailee
  • et al.
Abstract

Abstract

Background and Aims. Relatively little research has focused on cross-cultural mental health comparisons between older Korean immigrants in the United States and older Koreans in Korea. This study explicitly aims to answer questions about the incidence, similarities and differences in the distribution of psychological distress across these populations. This study examines the relationship between socio-demographic characteristics, social resources, and psychological distress. Thus, this study aims to determine the similarities and differences between older Korean immigrants in the United States and older Koreans in Korea with regard to the correlates and predictors of psychological distress.

Methods. This study is based on primary data collected from self-administered surveys taken by 480 older Koreans (60 years to 79 years) in both countries. This study used Folkman and Lazarus's (1984) stress and coping theory of social relations as its guiding theoretical and methodological framework, administering a cross-sectional survey method to examine the correlates and predictors of psychological distress among older Koreans in both countries. To test the prevalence of psychological distress, bivariate relationships were analyzed. Then, the interaction effects between socio-demographic characteristics and social resources on psychological distress were tested. Next, in order to test the relationship between independent variables and dependent variable, hierarchal multiple comparisons were tested.

Results. The prevalence of reported psychological distress was significantly different in the two samples, with 13% of older Korean immigrants in the United States reporting psychological distress and 21% of older Koreans in Korea reporting psychological distress. Health status was significantly associated with the experience of psychological distress in both countries. Income was not significantly associated with psychological distress in both countries. However, overall financial status was significantly associated with experiencing psychological distress in both countries. Hierarchical multiple regression revealed that there were significant associations between family relationships and help-seeking behavior among older Korean immigrants in the United States while there were significant associations between social support, social networks and psychological distress among older Koreans in Korea.

Conclusions. This study examines the correlates and determinants of psychological distress in both countries. Moreover, this is the first time that a comparative study has been used to understand psychological distress among older Koreans in both countries. Therefore, the findings of this study will be generalizable. Finally, the findings build on prior research on social support and social networks as stress coping buffers, adding a much-needed understanding of how stressors and different types of resources influence psychological distress outcomes.

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