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Depression literacy among older Chinese immigrants in Canada: a comparison with a population-based survey

  • Yvonne Tieu (a1), Candace Konnert (a1) and JianLi Wang (a2)

Background: Investigations of mental health literacy are important because the recognition of a mental health problem is the first step in seeking appropriate mental health care. Lack of recognition is a significant barrier to accessing mental health resources. Older Chinese immigrants are at increased risk for depression; however, there is no research investigating their depression literacy, including their beliefs about treatment, etiology, and prognosis.

Methods: This study investigated depression literacy among 53 older Chinese immigrants in Canada (aged 55–87 years) and compared their literacy to Canadian-born participants of the same age who were part of a larger population-based survey. Depression literacy was assessed through interviews using a case vignette and included the following indices: rates of correct identification of depression; perceived efficacy of various people, professions and treatments; and perceptions of etiology and prognosis.

Results: In the Chinese sample, 11.3% correctly identified depression in the case vignette. In contrast, 74.0% of participants in the population-based survey correctly identified depression. Differences in the perceptions of helpful people and interventions, etiology, and prognosis were also noted between the samples. Both samples strongly endorsed physical activity as helpful in the treatment of depression.

Conclusions: In light of these results, it is clear that older Chinese immigrants would benefit from information regarding the symptoms, etiology, and treatment of depression, and that this information may begin to address the serious underutilization of mental health services among this group. Our discussion highlights practice implications and promising interventions.

Corresponding author
Correspondence should be addressed to: Yvonne Tieu, Department of Psychology, University of Calgary, 2500 University Drive NW, Calgary, Alberta, Canada, T2N 1N4. Phone: +1–403-220 4975; Fax: +1–403-282-8249. Email:
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T.-Y. Lin and M.-C. Lin (1981). Love, denial, and rejection: responses of Chinese families to mental illness. In A. Kleinman and T.-Y. Lin (eds.) Normal and Abnormal Behavior in Chinese Culture (pp. 387401). Boston, MA: D. Reidel Publishing Company.

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International Psychogeriatrics
  • ISSN: 1041-6102
  • EISSN: 1741-203X
  • URL: /core/journals/international-psychogeriatrics
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