Prevalence and predictors of depression in Korean American elderly: Findings from the memory and aging study of Koreans (MASK)

Miyong T. Kim, Kim B. Kim, Hae Ra Han, Boyun Huh, Tam Nguyen, Hochang B. Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Objectives: To estimate the prevalence and identify the predictors of depression among community-dwelling Korean American elderly (KAE). Design: A cross-sectional descriptive epidemiological survey using a two-step sampling strategy to obtain a representative community sample. Setting: The authors recruited study participants at religious, service, and business establishments in the KA community (26 churches, 6 senior centers, 2 medical daycare centers, 1 supermarket). Participants: Community-dwelling first-generation KAE (N = 1,118; mean age ±SD: 70.5 ±7.0 years; female: 67.2%). Measurements: Trained bilingual nurses and community health workers interviewed participants face-to-face for demographic information, chronic conditions, and depression using the Korean versions of the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9K). Results: 30.3% of KAEs were classified as having either mild (PHQ-9K score 5e9; N = 218, 19.5%) or clinical depression (PHQ-9K score ≥ N =120, 10.8%), respectively. One of seven KAE (N = 164, 14.7%) endorsed thoughts of death or self-injury, but only 63 (5.7%) reported utilizing mental health services. The authors also identified several predictors of depression, including living arrangement (living alone versus living with family/spouse); having chronic conditions such as diabetes, arthritis, digestive disorders, or chronic bronchitis; years of education; and cognitive impairment. Conclusions: The authors' findings reveal a high prevalence of depression among KAE and a low level of mental health service utilization. Because there are urgent needs for culturally and contextually relevant interventions, the authors also discuss the feasibility of community-based interventions to reduce the burden of depression, which should be incorporated into a management system for multiple chronic conditions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)671-683
Number of pages13
JournalAmerican Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry
Issue number7
StatePublished - 2015


  • Chronic conditions
  • Depression
  • Korean American elderly
  • PHQ-9K

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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