Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology

, Volume 45, Issue 10, pp 941–951

Similarity in depressive symptom profile in a population-based study of migrants in the Netherlands


    • Altrecht Institute for Mental Health Care
  • Matty A. S. de Wit
    • Department of Epidemiology, Documentation and Health PromotionAmsterdam Municipal Health Service
  • Frank Rijmen
    • Department of BiostatisticsVU University Medical Center
  • Wilco C. Tuinebreijer
    • Department of Public Mental Health CareAmsterdam Municipal Health Service
  • Arnoud P. Verhoeff
    • Department of Epidemiology, Documentation and Health PromotionAmsterdam Municipal Health Service
    • Department of Sociology and AnthropologyUniversity of Amsterdam
  • Ralph W. Kupka
    • Altrecht Institute for Mental Health Care
  • Jack Dekker
    • VU University Medical CenterEMGO
  • Aartjan T. F. Beekman
    • Department of PsychiatryVU University Medical Center, GGZ inGeest
Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s00127-009-0135-0

Cite this article as:
Schrier, A.C., de Wit, M.A.S., Rijmen, F. et al. Soc Psychiat Epidemiol (2010) 45: 941. doi:10.1007/s00127-009-0135-0



Depression is a clinical syndrome developed in Western Europe and North-America. The expression of symptoms and the impact of symptoms on functioning may therefore be expected to vary across cultures and languages. Our first aim was to study differences in depressive symptom profile between indigenous and non-Western immigrant populations in the Netherlands. We hypothesized that differences in expression of depressive symptoms would be more likely in the domains of mood and cognitions, and less likely in the domains of psychomotor and vegetative symptoms. Our second aim was to study ethnic differences in the association of depressive symptoms and general functioning.


In a random community sample stratified for ethnicity in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, depressive symptoms were assessed by bilingual interviewers using the Composite International Diagnostic Interview (CIDI 2.1) and the Symptom Checklist-90-Revised (SCL-90-R). Impairments in functioning were measured by the World Health Organization Disability Assessment Schedule II (WHODAS II). Results were obtained from 812 subjects: N = 321 native Dutch, N = 213 Turkish-Dutch, N = 191 Moroccan-Dutch, N = 87 Surinamese-Dutch. Differences in depressive symptom expression were tested by differential item functioning.


The prevalence of DSM-IV depressive disorder and the overall level of depressive symptoms were higher in the Turkish and Moroccan immigrant groups compared to native Dutch subjects. Ethnic differences in item functioning of depressive symptoms were rare, and equally unlikely in all four symptom domains. Depression was equally associated with functional impairment across ethnic groups.


Although depressive symptoms were more common among migrants than in the indigenous population, both the depressive symptom profile and the associated functional impairments were comparable. These findings may help diminishing concerns about the validity of using existing diagnostic procedures among ethnic minority groups.


Depressive disorderDisabilityCross-cultural comparisonTurkeyMorocco

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009