202351 Comparison of illness representation models of mental illness in Asian Indian and Caucasian samples

Tuesday, November 10, 2009: 9:15 AM

Aparna S. Kalbag, PhD , Office of Global Health, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, New Brunswick, NJ
Sejal Bavishi, BS , Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, New Brunswick, NJ
Background: Illness representations (IRs) can play an important role in determining how one responds and copes with an illness (e.g., mental illness). Cultural differences between IRs of immigrant and host communities may explain under-use of mental health services by the immigrant group. Recent study findings suggest that Asian Indians do not seek mental health treatment at the same rate (Cooper et al., 2006) and are less likely to use psychotropic medication than a comparative Caucasian sample (Han & Liu, 2005).

Purpose: To determine how Asian Indians may differ from Caucasians in their illness representation of mental illness.

Methods: The study employed vignettes of depressed, schizophrenic and "troubled" persons. Asian Indians (N=149) attending health fairs (blind to condition) were randomly presented one of the three vignettes and were asked questions to elicit attributions regarding the seriousness, cause, expectation for recovery, and labels for symptoms presented in the vignette. Responses were compared to a nationally representative Caucasian sample (N=607) using data from the General Social Survey-1996.

Results: Regression analyses (controlling for years of education, sex, & age) suggest that Asian Indians rated schizophrenia and depression as less serious problems than Caucasians. They were also less likely to identify depression and schizophrenia as mental illnesses, were less likely to label them as biological illnesses, and believed the symptoms would improve on their own.

Discussion: These preliminary findings suggest that increasing utilization of mental health treatment by Asian Indians may require health literacy efforts aimed at improving identification of mental illnesses by this group.

Learning Objectives:
1. Describe the difference between Asian Indian immigrant and Caucasian attributional profiles to mental illness. 2. Explain the effects of socio-cultural factors such as age, education, sex, and years since immigration on beliefs about mental illness in Asian Indian immigrants.

Keywords: Mental Illness, Immigrants

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am currently a postdoctoral fellow at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. I conceptualized, designed, collected data, and analyzed the results of the study. My educational training is a doctorate (Ph.D.) in Clinical Psychology.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.