What does depression mean for Korean american elderly? A qualitative follow-up study

Su Yeon Lee-Tauler, Seung Hee Lee-Kwan, Hae Ra Han, Hochang B. Lee, Joseph J Gallo, Jin Hui Joo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Objective Korean American Elderly (KAE) have high rates of depression but underuse mental health services. The purpose of this study was to assess the meaning of depression and help seeking among KAE residing in the United States who have clinically significant depressive symptoms. Methods As a follow up to the Memory and Aging Study of Koreans (MASK; n=1, 118), a descriptive epidemiological study which showed that only one in four of KAE with clinically significant depressive symptoms (Patient Health Questionnaire-9=10) used mental health services, we conducted a qualitative study using semi-structured interviews with participants with clinically significant depressive symptoms regarding the meaning of depression and beliefs about help seeking. Ten participants with clinically significant depressive symptoms were approached and 8 were recruited for semi-structured interviews. Results KAE did not identify themselves as depressed though experiencing clinically significant depressive symptoms. They associated depression with social discrimination, social isolation, and suicide in the extreme circumstance. They attributed depression to not achieving social and material success in America and strained relationships with their children. Participants attempted to self-manage distress without telling others in their social network. However, KAE were willing to consult with mental health professionals if the services were bilingual, affordable, and confidential. Conclusion KAE with clinically significant depressive symptoms are a vulnerable group with need and desire for linguistically and culturally relevant mental health services who are isolated due to a complex array of psychological and social factors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)558-565
Number of pages8
JournalPsychiatry Investigation
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1 2016



  • Depression
  • Help seeking
  • Korean older adults
  • Qualitative research

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry

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