During this six part series on depression, I will share some of recent research on depression as it pertains to various groups in the United States. Depression is one of the most common mental health disorders, with over three million cases diagnosed in the United States per year. Depression is described as a persistent feeling of sadness or loss of interest that can lead to a range of behavioral and physical changes. Some of these symptoms may include changes in sleep, energy level, concentration, and self- esteem. In the most severe cases depression can also cause thoughts of suicide.
If you or anyone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide please call the national suicide prevention line at 800-273-8255 or go to your local emergency room for immediate assistance.
Depression Among Asian Americans
Asian Americans are “the fastest growing minority population in the US” and with nineteen unique ethnicities that include Cambodian, Chinese, Indian, Japanese, Korean, Pakistani, Filipino, Thai, and Vietnamese, detection of mental health symptoms can be somewhat complicated. A significant percentage of Asian Americans suffer from depression, but are less likely to be diagnosed than any other ethnic group.
One major reason for this diagnostic shortcoming is that Asian Americans presentation of depressive symptoms are different than any other ethnic/racial group. Asian Americans “may not report sadness or depressed mood” to providers as their main complaint, so they may not meet the criteria typically used to measure depression. Instead Asian Americans have been found to display more physical symptoms of depression, such as “changes in appetite, headaches, backaches, stomachaches, insomnia, or fatigue.” This may be why Asian Americans are less likely to be diagnosed with depression, and are “less likely to access any depression treatment.”
Researchers estimate that 26.9% – 35.6% of Asian Americans may have depressive symptoms; 4.5% – 11.3% of Asian American adults meet the criteria for major depression. Research supports that higher rates of depression are found among Koreans and Filipinos, while lower rates are found with Japanese and Chinese ethnicities. Overall, these numbers suggest that there needs to be more research and support for Asian American communities in order to support their mental health.
Mental health providers can better detect depression and increase mental health services for Asian Americans by understanding diversity, and taking a more insightful approach to diagnostic assessment of Asian American mental health needs.
References: Kim, H.J., Park, E., Storr, C.L., Tran, K., Juon, H.S. (2015). Depression among Asian-American Adults in the Community: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. PLoS ONE, 10 (6).
About Stephanie Williams, PhD
Stephanie Williams, PhD, is the founder of Integrated Psychological Assessment Services. Her practice focuses on the connection between what we think, feel and do, and how changes can improve one’s life. Dr. Williams believes in empowering people to help them grow, change, or just deal with the daily demands of life.
Call Dr. Williams today for a free consultation: 408-317-0687.