Abstract: Effects of mediating factors on the process of stress and depression among Korean immigrants in the U.S.: Structural Equation Modeling (Society for Social Work and Research 14th Annual Conference: Social Work Research: A WORLD OF POSSIBILITIES)

87P Effects of mediating factors on the process of stress and depression among Korean immigrants in the U.S.: Structural Equation Modeling

Saturday, January 16, 2010
* noted as presenting author
Hyun-Sun Park, PhD , California State University, Northridge, Assistant Professor, Northridge, CA
Purpose: For more than two decades, research has indicated that Korean immigrants experience severe depressive symptoms due to the stresses associated with immigration. The purpose of this study is to extend current research on stress and depression to the Korean immigrant population in the United States. While many studies of Korean immigrants have focused on the unsettling nature of immigration, this study focused on the adaptive value of mediating variables in the relationship between various sources of stress and depression. Specifically, this study investigated the effects of coping strategies, perceived social support, self-esteem, mastery, and religiosity on the process of stress and depression among the Korean immigrant population. The following research questions guided this study: (1) What is the relationship between stressors and depression among Korean immigrants?; (2) What are the roles of such mediating variables as coping strategies, social support, personal resources, and religiosity in the relationship between stress and depression?; and (3) Are the effects of stressors on depression significant after taking into account the mediating variables?

Methods: Using a cross-sectional design, this study employed nonprobability sampling procedure that relies on available subjects. The sample consisted of 374 Korean immigrants who migrated to the U.S. at the age of 16 or older. Data were collected through a paper-pencil survey questionnaire that includes nine standard instruments to measure the exogenous variables (acculturative stress and resilient factors) and endogenous depression variable of the study. Data were analyzed using Structural Equation Modeling (SEM).

Results: The analysis indicated that almost half of the study subjects (47.1%, n=176) were considered as experiencing depressive symptoms, with a mean score of 15.7 (SD=8.9). Multivariate analysis using SEM found detrimental effects of stressors on depression (.519, p=.004), as well as mediating effects of perceived social support (-.231, p=.015) and personal resources (-.556, p=.028) on the relationship between stressors and depression. However, no mediating effects of coping strategies and religiosity were found. Although stressors themselves explained a significant amount of the total variance in depression (R2= .27, p=.004,) the relationship between stressors and depression was better explained by the multivariate model (R2= .524, p=.049).

Implications: The findings indicating high prevalence of depression among Korean immigrants suggest that needs assessment for Korean population needs to be more active than just based on the utilization rate of the facilities, and any barriers for them to access public services need to be addressed. In addition, the findings that coping has no effects on depression but strong effects on perceived social support and personal resources suggest that future research need to identify the contexts where coping is positively related to these mediators. Another important implication for future research is that the pre-migration experiences of Korean immigrants need to be considered to clarify whether the high level of depression is more influenced by the migration process or by general life stressors.