The Society for Social Work and Research

2013 Annual Conference

January 16-20, 2013 I Sheraton San Diego Hotel and Marina I San Diego, CA

Psychological Acculturation and Mental Health Among Immigrant Older Adults: Does Gender Matter?

Saturday, January 19, 2013
Grande Ballroom A, B, and C (Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina)
* noted as presenting author
Bo Rin Kim, MSW, MA, Doctoral student, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Ann Arbor, MI
Eunwoo Lee, MSW, Workforce Development Coordinator, Korean Community Services of Metropolitan New York, Inc, Oakland Gardens, NY
Background: The goal of this study is to investigate the association between acculturation and self-rated mental health among older immigrants, and how this association differs between males and females. Although a number of previous studies have addressed the issues of acculturation and mental health, findings still remain mixed due to varying conceptualization of acculturation and lack of consideration of age and gender differences in acculturation effects on mental health. Therefore, this study focused on the influence of psychological acculturation regarding ethnic identity on mental health among older immigrants.

Methods: Data came from the 2002-2003 National Latino and Asian American Study, a nationally representative household survey of Latinos and Asians based on a stratified area probability sample design. For our study, the sample was restricted to older respondents 60 years or older who were not born in the U.S. The analytic sample consists of 290 Latinos and 211 Asians. Self-rated mental health, the dependent variable, was measured in two categories: (1) poor and fair; and (2) good, very good, and excellent. Psychological acculturation, the key independent variable, was measured using four indexes: (1) how close they identify with others of same racial/ethnic descent, (2) how close they feel in their ideas or feelings with people of same racial descent, (3) how much time they would like to spend with people of same racial/ethnic group, and (4) how important the same racial/ethnic group marriage is to them (range=0-3; Cronbach’s α=0.71). The reversed score was used for analysis so that high score represented greater level of acculturation. Weighted logistic regression was used. Instead of including interaction terms, separate analyses were conducted for males and females.

Results: Although the scores for psychological acculturation between males (mean=0.721, SD=.618) and females (mean=0.723, SD=.535) were not significantly different, we found a different pattern of association between psychological acculturation and self-rated mental health for male and female older immigrants. While psychological acculturation had no effect on self-rated mental health among males, it negatively influenced self-rated mental health among females even after controlling for other acculturation aspects - including English fluency, years in the U.S., country of origin, socio-demographic characteristics, and number of chronic conditions (p<.01). In contrast, English fluency was positively associated with self-rated mental health among older male immigrants (p<.01), which did not have a significant effect on mental health among older females.

Conclusions: Acculturation may be necessary to live in the country with different culture, and successful acculturation could lead better psychological well-being. However, relinquishing the original ethnic identity could be stressful process for some population, resulting in high risk for mental illness. The result suggests that it requires for clinical practitioners to pay careful attention when working with female older immigrants with limited social support and other necessary resources from the same racial/ethnic groups. In order to get clearer ideas on this area, further research would need to examine the disaggregating effects of multidimensional aspects of acculturation on psychological health.