Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health

, Volume 21, Issue 3, pp 522–532 | Cite as

Effects of Ethnic Identity on the Relationship Between Mental Health and Perceived Discrimination Among Ethnic Return Migrants: The Case of Korean Chinese Return-Migrated to South Korea

  • Jihyung HongEmail author
Original Paper


This study examined the relationship among mental health, perceived discrimination and ethnic identity among Korean Chinese (Joseonjok) who have return-migrated to South Korea. A survey was conducted with 399 Joseonjok adults (≥ 19 years) residing in the capital city Seoul or nearby. Depression was measured using the (self-report) Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale-Korean (CES-D-K) version (n = 292, mean age = 42.6, female = 56.5%). Perceived discrimination and ethnic identity were assessed with single-item questions. The mean CES-D-K total score was 9.3 (SD = 8.4) and 20.6% had clinical depression (cut-off score: 16). Perceived discrimination was positively associated with CES-D-K scores (regression coefficient = 2.09, p = 0.04). This association was stronger in those identifying themselves more strongly as ‘Korean’ than ‘Chinese’. Discrimination by ‘co-ethnic hosts’ can have a greater impact on mental health among those ethnic return migrants with a stronger ethnic identity. More efforts are needed to help them better integrate into South Korean society.


Korean Chinese Depression Discrimination Identity Ethnic return migrants 



I would like to express gratitude to all survey participants and the Federation of Korean Chinese Associations (‘중국동포연합중앙회’ in Korean), and special thanks to Mr. Young-Min Kim and Mr. Seong-Gon Kim for helping on data collection as well as Dr. Jong-Hyun Yi for his valuable comments on this manuscript.


This work was supported by the Gachon University research fund of 2016 (GCU-2016-0086).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

Author Jihyung Hong declares that she has no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


  1. 1.
    Epel OB, Kaplan G, Moran M. Perceived discrimination and health-related quality of life among Arabs and Jews in Israel: a population-based survey. BMC Public Health. 2010;10:282.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Pincus FL. Discrimination comes in many forms. Am Behav Sci. 1996;40:186–94.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Williams DR. Race, socioeconomic status, and health. The added effects of racism and discrimination. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 1999;896:173–88.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Sevillano V, Basabe N, Bobowik M, Aierdi X. Health-related quality of life, ethnicity and perceived discrimination among immigrants and natives in Spain. Ethn Health. 2014;19:178–97.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Williams DR, Neighbors HW, Jackson JS. Racial/ethnic discrimination and health: findings from community studies. Am J Public Health. 2003;93:200–8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Veling W, Selten JP, Susser E, Laan W, Mackenbach JP, Hoek HW. Discrimination and the incidence of psychotic disorders among ethnic minorities in The Netherlands. Int J Epidemiol. 2007;36:761–8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Stuber J, Galea S, Ahern J, Blaney S, Fuller C. The association between multiple domains of discrimination and self-assessed health: a multilevel analysis of Latinos and blacks in four low-income New York City neighborhoods. Health Serv Res. 2003;38:1735–59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Schunck R, Reiss K, Razum O. Pathways between perceived discrimination and health among immigrants: evidence from a large national panel survey in Germany. Ethn Health. 2015;20:493–510.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Wallace S, Nazroo J, Becares L. Cumulative effect of racial discrimination on the mental health of ethnic minorities in the United Kingdom. Am J Public Health. 2016;106:1294–300.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Bhui K, Stansfeld S, McKenzie K, Karlsen S, Nazroo J, Weich S. Racial/ethnic discrimination and common mental disorders among workers: findings from the EMPIRIC Study of Ethnic Minority Groups in the United Kingdom. Am J Public Health. 2005;95:496–501.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Schulz A, Israel B, Williams D, Parker E, Becker A, James S. Social inequalities, stressors and self reported health status among African American and white women in the Detroit metropolitan area. Soc Sci Med. 2000;51:1639–53.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Agudelo-Suarez AA, Ronda-Perez E, Gil-Gonzalez D, Vives-Cases C, Garcia AM, Ruiz-Frutos C, et al. The effect of perceived discrimination on the health of immigrant workers in Spain. BMC Public Health. 2011;11:652.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Krieger N, Sidney S. Racial discrimination and blood pressure: the CARDIA Study of young black and white adults. Am J Public Health. 1996;86:1370–8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Brondolo E, Rieppi R, Kelly KP, Gerin W. Perceived racism and blood pressure: a review of the literature and conceptual and methodological critique. Ann Behav Med. 2003;25:55–65.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Edwards RR. The association of perceived discrimination with low back pain. J Behav Med. 2008;31:379–89.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Yang HJ, Wu JY, Huang SS, Lien MH, Lee TS. Perceived discrimination, family functioning, and depressive symptoms among immigrant women in Taiwan. Arch women’s Mental Health. 2014;17:359–66.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Chou KL. Perceived discrimination and depression among new migrants to Hong Kong: the moderating role of social support and neighborhood collective efficacy. J Affect Disord. 2012;138:63–70.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Kim CO. Discrimination-related health inequality and role of social capital among marriage migrant women in South Korea. Int J Equity Health. 2016;15:176.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Park GR, Son I, Kim SS. Perceived ethnic discrimination and depressive symptoms among biethnic adolescents in South Korea. J Prev Med Public Health. 2016;49:301–7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Noh S, Beiser M, Kaspar V, Hou F, Rummens J. Perceived racial discrimination, depression, and coping: a study of Southeast Asian refugees in Canada. J Health Soc Behav. 1999;40:193–207.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Yip T, Gee GC, Takeuchi DT. Racial discrimination and psychological distress: the impact of ethnic identity and age among immigrant and United States-born Asian adults. Dev Psychol. 2008;44:787–800.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Cokley K. Critical issues in the measurement of ethnic and racial identity: a referendum on the state of the field. J Couns Psychol. 2007;54:224–34.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Phinney JS. When We Talk about American Ethnic Groups, What Do We Mean? Am Psychol. 1996; 51:918–27.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Mewes R, Asbrock F, Laskawi J. Perceived discrimination and impaired mental health in Turkish immigrants and their descendents in Germany. Compr Psychiatry. 2015;62:42–50.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Krieger N. Embodying inequality: a review of concepts, measures, and methods for studying health consequences of discrimination. Int J Health Serv. 1999;29:295–352.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    Brondolo E, Brady Ver Halen N, Pencille M, Beatty D, Contrada RJ. Coping with racism: a selective review of the literature and a theoretical and methodological critique. J Behav Med. 2009;32:64–88.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Ikram UZ, Snijder MB, de Wit MA, Schene AH, Stronks K, Kunst AE. Perceived ethnic discrimination and depressive symptoms: the buffering effects of ethnic identity, religion and ethnic social network. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol. 2016;51:679–88.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. 28.
    Brittian AS, Kim SY, Armenta BE, Lee RM, Umana-Taylor AJ, Schwartz SJ, et al. Do dimensions of ethnic identity mediate the association between perceived ethnic group discrimination and depressive symptoms? Cult Divers Ethn Minor Psychol. 2015;21:41–53.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    Mossakowski KN. Coping with perceived discrimination: does ethnic identity protect mental health? J Health Soc Behav. 2003;44:318–31.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. 30.
    Ai AL, Nicdao EG, Appel HB, Lee DH. Ethnic identity and major depression in Asian American Subgroups Nationwide: differential findings in relation to subcultural contexts. J Clin Psychol. 2015;71:1225–44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. 31.
    Arbona C, Jimenez C. Minority stress, ethnic identity, and depression among Latino/a college students. J Couns Psychol. 2014;61:162–8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. 32.
    Beiser MN, Hou F. Ethnic identity, resettlement stress and depressive affect among Southeast Asian refugees in Canada. Soc Sci Med. 2006;63:137–50.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. 33.
    Torres L, Yznaga SD, Moore KM. Discrimination and Latino psychological distress: the moderating role of ethnic identity exploration and commitment. Am J Orthopsychiatry. 2011;81:526–34.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. 34.
    Tsuda T. Diasporic homecomings: ethnic return migration in comparative perspective. Stanford: Stanford University Press; 2009.Google Scholar
  35. 35.
    Han E. Contestation and Adaptation: The Politics of National Identity in China: OUP USA; 2013.Google Scholar
  36. 36.
    Korea Immigration Service. Korea Immigragtion Service Statistics 2016 ("2016 출입국·외국인정책 통계연보" in Korean). 2017. Accessed 15 Aug 2017.
  37. 37.
    National Bureau of Statistics of China. 2010 Population Census (China). 2013. Accessed 21 Aug 2017.
  38. 38.
    Yang HS, Park W, Yae DK, Kang JW, Kang MS, Kim YS, et al. Research on the socio-demographics of Korean Chinese residing in Seoul and related policy development ("서울 거주 중국동포 실태조사 및 정책수립 연구" in Korean). Seoul: Seoul Metropolitan Government; 2013.Google Scholar
  39. 39.
    Cho MJ, Kim KH. Use of the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression (CES-D) Scale in Korea. J Nerv Ment Dis. 1998;186:304–10.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. 40.
    Radloff LS. The CES-D Scale. Appl Psychol Meas. 1977;1:385–401.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. 41.
    Vilagut G, Forero CG, Barbaglia G, Alonso J. Screening for depression in the general population with the center for epidemiologic studies depression (CES-D): a systematic review with meta-analysis. PLoS ONE. 2016;11:e0155431.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. 42.
    Schafer J. Analysis of incomplete multivariate data. London: Chapman & Hall; 1997.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. 43.
    Little R, Rubin D. Statistical analysis with missing data. New York: Wiley; 1987.Google Scholar
  44. 44.
    Rubin D. Multiple imputation for nonresponse in surveys. New York: Wiley; 1987.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. 45.
    Quayson A, Daswani G. A companion to diaspora and transnationalism. New York: Wiley; 2013.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. 46.
    Jeong HS, Kim YS, Lee TM, Ma KH, Choi YJ, Park GP, et al. A national survey on multicultural families 2015 (No. 2016-03) (in Korean). Seoul: Korean Women’s Development Institute; 2016.Google Scholar
  47. 47.
    Song C. Chapter 11: brothers only in name. The alienation and identity transformation of Korean Chinese Return Migrants in South Korea. In: Tsuda T, editor. Diasporic homecomings: ethnic return migration in comparative perspective. Standford: Standford University Press; 2009.Google Scholar
  48. 48.
    Cho MJ, Nam JJ, Suh GH. Prevalence of symptoms of depression in a nationwide sample of Korean adults. Psychiatry Res. 1998;81:341–52.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. 49.
    Ministriy of Health & Welfare AND Korea Centers for Disese Control & Prevention. Korea Health Statistics 2012: Korea National and Nutrition Examination Survey (KNHANES V-3) South Korea; 2013.Google Scholar
  50. 50.
    OECD. OECD Health Statistics 2017. Paris, 2017. Accessed 27 Aug 2017.
  51. 51.
    Tropp LR, Wright SC. Ingroup identification and relative deprivation: an examination across multiple social comparisons. Eur J Soc Psychol. 1999;29:707–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. 52.
    Crosby F. Relative deprivation in organizational settings. Res Organ Behav. 1984;6:51–93.Google Scholar
  53. 53.
    Ministry of the Interior and Safety. 2016 survey on the current status of foreign residents by the local government ("2016년 지방자치단체 외국인주민 현황" in Korean). 2017. Accessed 31 May 2018.

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Healthcare Management, College of Social ScienceGachon UniversitySeongnamSouth Korea

Personalised recommendations