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Depression among Korean Immigrants: The Influence of Acculturation and Social Support



Introduction: Depression is prevalent among U.S. immigrants, including Korean immigrants. However, little is known about factors that may contribute to their depression. Preliminary evidence suggests that less acculturated individuals are at greater risk for depression but that social support may buffer any negative effects of less acculturation. The aims of this study were to examine the relationship between acculturation and depressive symptoms among Korean immigrants and the moderating role of social support.

Methods: A convenience sample of 132 adult Korean immigrants completed 6 self-report measures: the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale, a Korean version of the Acculturation Rating Scale for Mexican Americans-II, the Multi-Dimensional Scale of Perceived Social Support, the Perceived Stress Scale, the MacArthur Scale of Subjective Social Status, and a demographic questionnaire. Hierarchical regression analysis was used to examine the aims, controlling for covariates.

Results: 31% of the sample met the criteria for being depressed. Greater acculturation was associated with more depressive symptoms while greater social support was a significant predictor of fewer symptoms. Social support was more strongly related to less depression among immigrants who were less acculturated than among immigrants who were more acculturated, but this difference was not significant. Perceived stress was the most significant predictor of depression. Older age at immigration and less education were also related to greater depression. Variables in the regression model accounted for 65% of the variance in predicting depression.

Conclusions: Findings indicate a high prevalence of depressive symptoms in this Korean immigrant sample. Results also suggest that acculturation per se may not play a major role in depressive symptoms but rather more specific factors associated with acculturation such as age at immigration and educational levels. These factors should be studied in future research, along with efforts to better understand the causes of stress and impaired social networks in this population. Findings point to a need for regular assessment of depression by health care providers as well as the stress and social support available in a Korean immigrant’s life. Results also suggest that community-based prevention programs to address these problems may be warranted.

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