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Keywords:

  • stress intensity;
  • psychological distress;
  • social support;
  • immigration

Abstract

The effects of various stressors and sources of social support on the psychological distress of immigrants were examined. Key variables were measured using the Perceived Immigration Related Stressors Scale, the Multidimensional Scale of Perceived Social Support and the Talbieh Brief Distress Inventory. Data were collected from a community-based sample of 565 adult individuals who recently emigrated from the former Soviet Union to Israel. The most significant stressors reported by immigrants were material-related, followed by culture-, information-, and health-related stressors. Those who perceived that social support was readily available had lower distress ratings than others who believed that social support was not forthcoming. Subjects reported significantly greater social support from family and significant others, than from friends. Social resources (especially support from friends) deterred distress under low stress conditions, but lost the deterring effect as stressors increased. Multiple regression analyses indicated that various combinations of stressors and social support resources explained 50 per cent of the variance in psychological distress under low stress conditions and 27 per cent of the variance as stress intensity increased. In conclusion, the study demonstrates that (1) social-stress factors affect psychological distress and symptoms, (2) social support resources mediate the effects of stressors on psychological distress, and (3) variability in psychological distress is rooted in differential stress-support patterns. Copyright © 2000 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.