Society for Social Work and Research

Sixteenth Annual Conference Research That Makes A Difference: Advancing Practice and Shaping Public Policy
11-15 January 2012 I Grand Hyatt Washington I Washington, DC

15601 Daily Spiritual Experiences, Social Support, and Depression Among Elderly Korean Immigrants

Sunday, January 15, 2012: 10:45 AM
Franklin Square (Grand Hyatt Washington)
* noted as presenting author
Jisung Park, MSW, Ph. D. Candidate, State University of New York at Albany, Albany, NY
Soonhee Roh, PhD, Ph. D, New York University, Woodside, NY
Background and Purpose: A growing number of studies have explored distinctive domains within the spirituality and religiousness and found that daily spiritual experiences were negatively associated with depression and positively associated with social support among older adults. The prevalence of depression measured by the Geriatric Depression Scale (GDS-30; Yesavage et al., 1983) has been reported at 18% for older Chinese immigrant adults, 20% for older Japanese immigrant adults, and strikingly 44.8% for elderly Korean immigrants, compared with 12.7% of older American adults on average. Given the fact that elderly Korean immigrants suffer from high levels of depressive symptoms, it is important to investigate the structural relationships among daily spiritual experiences, social support, and depression to improve the quality of life in this population. Applying Smith's (2003) theory of religious effects, it was hypothesized that daily spiritual experiences and social support would decrease the levels of depression and that the effect of daily spiritual experiences on depression would be mediated by social support among elderly Korean immigrants.

Methods: The study had a cross-sectional design and used data from 200 Korean immigrants aged 65 to 89 (Mean = 72.5, SD = 5.14) who lived in New York City. The participants were recruited for face-to-face interviews. The scale of daily spiritual experiences was selected from the Brief Multidimensional Measure of Religiousness/Spirituality (Fetzer Institute/NIA, 1999) and a mean across the six items of this scale was created. Social support was measured by the revised version of Lubben Social Network Scale, which assessed the size of one's family and friend network, frequency of contact with family members, and reciprocity of giving help. For the dependent variable, depression, the Geriatric Depression Scale (GDS-30; Yesavage et al., 1983) was used. Data analyses included descriptive statistics and bivariate and multivariate analyses of variance. We followed Baron and Kenny's criteria for mediation (1986) and used path analysis to test the mediating effect of social support. The effects of demographic and socioeconomic information were held constant as control variables.

Results: A hierarchical regression model indicated that both daily spiritual experiences (B = -.68, SE = .31, p<.05) and social support (B = -.12, SE = .04, p<.01) had positive effects to decrease the levels of depression. Better self-rated physical health and higher income predicted lower depression. Path analysis showed that the direct effect of daily spiritual experiences on depression disappeared when social support was included. We found that social support fully mediated the positive effect of daily spiritual experiences on depression (Sobel's test = -1.96, p<.05).

Conclusions and Implications: The findings of this study will help social work practitioners to appreciate the salutary effects of daily spiritual experiences and social networks on attenuating depressive symptoms among elderly Korean immigrants. The results will also assist geriatric mental health professionals, health care providers, and social work practitioners in understanding the adjustment processes of elderly Korean immigrants and developing culturally appropriate interventions.

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