Abstract: Personal Well-Being, Resilience, Social Support and Psychological Distress Among Burmese Resettled Adults in the United States (Society for Social Work and Research 24th Annual Conference - Reducing Racial and Economic Inequality)

Personal Well-Being, Resilience, Social Support and Psychological Distress Among Burmese Resettled Adults in the United States

Thursday, January 16, 2020
Independence BR A, ML 4 (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
* noted as presenting author
Kareen Tonsing, PhD, Assistant Professor of Social Work, Oakland University, Rochester, MI
Martha Vungkhanching, Ph.D., Department Chair & Professor, California State University, Fresno, Fresno, CA
Background and Purpose

A growing body of literature has demonstrated that immigrants and refugees often experience challenges in adapting to the demands of the new culture, which contribute to psychological distress and can affect their well-being. However, few studies examine the potentially protective factors such as resilience and social support for dealing with the challenges among Burmese resettled adults in the United States (U.S.). The purpose of this study is to examine relationships among demographic variables, resilience, social support, and symptoms of psychological distress on personal well-being among Burmese resettled adults in the United States (U.S.).


Data for this study came from 161 resettled Burmese adults, aged 18 years and above, who have lived in the U.S. for a mean years of 5.5. Data on resilience, social support, psychological distress and personal well-being index (PWI) were collected by means of convenience sampling. Descriptive statistics were calculated as means and SD, ANOVA was conducted to test for group differences on PWI. Multiple regression analysis was used to assess the predictive factors of PWI.


Respondents ranged in age from 18 to 73, with a mean age of 35.21 (SD = 10.58), of whom 51% were male. Majority were married (74.5%), employed (70.2%), and more than half have a high school degree (57%). Findings from this cross-sectional data revealed that the average mean scores on the personal well-being index was 52.87 (SD = 11.12), with a range of 66, which is lower than the normative range for Western means of 70-80 points. In the whole sample, 33% reported higher levels of psychological distress symptoms. Results of ANOVA revealed statistically significant difference in personal well-being index for those with and without psychological distress symptoms, F (159) = 9.66, p <.01. Respondents who reported symptoms of psychological distress had lower levels of personal well-being (M = 49.5, SD = 12.24) than those with low or no psychological distress symptoms (M = 54.52, SD = 10.18). Regression analysis revealed that personal well-being was statistically inversely associated with psychological distress, β = -2.76, p <.01, and age, β = -3.15, p <.01. On the other hand, personal well-being was positively associated with social support, β = 2.97, p <.01, controlling for demographic factors of gender, education, relationship status, employment status, and length of time in the U.S.


The findings of this study support the notion that quality of life of Burmese resettled individuals are associated with social support and psychological distress. Psychological distress and lack of social support can inversely affect their quality of life and personal well-being. Specifically, older individuals and those without social support are at increased risk of psychological distress. Practice implications for enhancing social support and quality of life are discussed.