Date Published: March 26, 2018
Publisher: Public Library of Science
Author(s): Bum Jung Kim, Lin Liu, Christabel Cheung, Joonhee Ahn, Kewei Chen.
The present study examined the effects of cognitive impairment and functional limitation on depressive symptoms among older Korean American immigrants. The sample was drawn from a cross-sectional survey of 210 older Korean immigrants (aged 65 years or older) in Los Angeles County. Based on robust hierarchical regression, the study found that cognitive ability and functional status were significant explanatory factors related to depressive symptoms among older Korean immigrants. In addition, the interaction of instrumental activities of daily living (IADL) and cognitive function (MMSE) had a significant effect on depressive symptoms. This finding suggests that older Korean immigrants in the U.S. who experience deficits in cognitive function and/or IADL performance are vulnerable to psychological distress as indicated by depressive symptoms. Recommendations include implementing culturally-responsive health interventions aimed at enabling accessibility to dementia care services and supporting improvement of IADL performance among older Korean American immigrants.
Older Korean immigrants in the U.S. are the fifth largest Asian American ethnic subgroup . In the three decades between 1970 and 2000, the number of older Korean American individuals increased twenty-fold, from 3,270 to 66,254 . For this rapidly growing population, depression has been identified as a major mental health problem. Studies indicate that depressive symptoms are up to four times more prevalent in older Korean Americans than in the general older population . Moreover, the rate of depression among older Korean immigrants is estimated at twice the rates of depression found among older Filipino, Chinese, and Japanese Americans, respectively . In response to these troubling trends, previous research has identified multiple risk factors (e.g., poor health status, low socioeconomic status, acculturative stress and limited personal resources) associated with depressive symptoms in this high-risk group [4–6]. Findings from these studies indicate that impairment in cognitive ability is closely linked to depressive symptoms among community-dwelling older Korean immigrants [4, 7–8]. However, less is known about how cognitive impairment relates to other physical risk factors, thereby possibly exacerbating the risk of depression.
The present study examined the effects of cognitive impairment and functional limitations on depressive symptoms among older Korean immigrants, after controlling for the effects of demographic variables. This investigation further examined the influence of the interaction effect of functional limitations in IADL and cognitive function (MMSE) on depressive symptoms. Findings revealed that depressive symptoms were significantly associated with both functional limitation and cognitive impairment within the study population.