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Keywords:

  • culture;
  • depression;
  • Korean immigrant women;
  • nursing

Abstract

Title. Symptom manifestations and expressions among Korean immigrant women suffering with depression

Aim.  This paper is a report of a study to investigate the culture-specific symptom manifestation and expression of depression in Korean immigrant women in the United States of America (USA).

Background.  The literature indicates that Korean immigrants to the USA report higher levels of depressive symptoms than immigrants from other Asian ethnic groups, and women immigrants tend to encounter more gender-related emotional difficulties. However, because of traditional cultural beliefs, immigrants may not seek treatment for depression and, when they do, tend to leave treatment prematurely.

Methods.  We used an ethnographic method based on Spradley’s Developmental Research Sequence with a sample of 17 Korean immigrant women who scored mild-to-severe depression on a Korean version of the Hamilton Depression Inventory Scale. Data were collected from 2005 to 2006, and consisted of tape-recorded interviews, field notes and diaries.

Findings.  Depressive symptoms were complex, intertwined and felt in all domains of the person’s existence. They were expressed mainly through emotional and physical suffering, and the expression of suffering as a way of life. Themes elicited were emotional entrapment, shame and failure as women, disappointment at not being able to live a normal life and emotional restraint, as emotions were not generally expressed verbally but instead were expressed somatically, bodily and metaphorically.

Conclusion.  Being aware of culture-specific symptoms of depression among Korean immigrant women can assist nurses in caring for them and thus improving their therapeutic alliances and preventing them from prematurely terminating treatment.