Journal of Cross-Cultural Gerontology

, Volume 32, Issue 2, pp 239–254 | Cite as

The Role of Religiousness/Spirituality and Social Networks in Predicting Depressive Symptoms among Older Korean Americans

  • Yeon-Shim LeeEmail author
  • So-Young Park
  • Soonhee Roh
  • Harold G. Koenig
  • Grace J. Yoo


This study (1) examined the effects of religiousness/spirituality and social networks as predictors of depressive symptoms in older Korean Americans and (2) compared the best predictors of depressive symptoms. A cross-sectional survey was conducted with 200 older Korean Americans residing in the New York City area in 2009. Best-subsets regression analyses were used to evaluate the best predictors of depressive symptoms. Nearly 30% of older Korean participants reported mild or severe depressive symptoms. The best model fit for depressive symptoms involved four predictors: physical health status, religious/spiritual coping skills, social networks, and annual household income. Social networks and religious/spiritual coping skills contributed significantly to the variance of depressive symptoms. Adding additional variables to the model did not enhance predictive and descriptive power. Religiousness/spirituality and social networks are important for coping with life stress and may be useful in developing effective health care strategies in the management of depression among older Korean Americans. Health education and intervention could be framed in ways that strengthen such coping resources for this population. Future research is needed to best guide prevention and intervention strategies.


Best-subsets regression analysis Mental health Korean American older adults Religiousness/spirituality Social networks 



This work was supported by a grant received by Dr. Roh from the John A. Hartford Foundation for the Dissertation Research. A subset of her dissertation data was utilized for this present study. The authors are grateful to the Korean older adults who participated in the survey and acknowledge Dr. Yuri Jang for her invaluable comments and feedback on the manuscript.


  1. Adlof, S. M., Catts, H. W., & Lee, J. (2010). Kindergarten predictors of second vs. eighth grade reading comprehension impairments. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 43, 332–345.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Akaike, H. (1977). On entropy maximization principle. In P. R. Krishnaiah (Ed.), Applications of statistics (pp. 27–41). Amsterdam: North-Holland Publishing Company.Google Scholar
  3. Alexopoulous, G., Katz, I.R., Reynolds, C.F. III, Carpenter, D., & Docherty, J.P. (2001). Introduction: Methods, summary, and commentary. In The expert consensus guideline series, Pharmacotherapy of depressive disorders in postgraduate medicine: A special report, 5–18.Google Scholar
  4. Bernstein, K. S., Park, S.-Y., Shin, J., Cho, S., & Park, Y. (2011). Acculturation, discrimination, and depressive symptoms among Korean immigrants in new York City. Community Mental Health Journal, 47(1), 24–34.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Besley, D. A., Kuh, E., & Welsh, R. E. (1980). Regression diagnostics: Identifying influential data and sources of collinearity. New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Borenstein, M., Rothstein, H., & Cohen, J. (2000). Power and precision (version 2.0). Teaneck: Biostat.Google Scholar
  7. Bruce, M. (2001). Depression and disability in late life: Direction for future research. American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 9, 99–101.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Chatters, L. M., Taylor, R. J., Jackson, J. S., & Lincoln, K. D. (2008). Religious coping among African Americans, Caribbean blacks and non-Hispanic whites. Journal of Community Psychology, 36(3), 371–386.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Efron, B. (1982). The jackknife, the bootstrap, and other resampling plans. Society of Industrial and Applied Mathematics CBMS-NSF monographs, 38.Google Scholar
  10. Fetzer Institute/National Institute on Aging Working Group. (1999). Multidimensional measurement of religiousness/spirituality for use in health research: A report of the Fetzer Institute/National Institute on Aging working group. Kalamazoo: John E. Fetzer Institute.Google Scholar
  11. Harwood, D.G., Barker, W.W, Ownby, R.L., Mullan, M., & Duara, R. (1999). Factors associated with depressive symptoms in non-demented community-dwelling elderly, International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry 14: 331–337.Google Scholar
  12. Hosmer, D. V., & Lemeshow, S. (1989). Applied logistic regression. New York: John Wiley & Sons Inc..Google Scholar
  13. Jang, Y., & Chiriboga, D. A. (2010). Living in a different world: Acculturative stress among Korean American elders. The Journals of Gerontology. Series B, Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 65, 14–21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Jang, Y., Borenstein, A. R., Chiriboga, D. A., Phillips, K., & Mortimer, J. A. (2006). Religiosity, adherence to traditional culture, and psychological well-being among African American elders. Journal of Applied Gerontology, 25, 343–356.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Karp, J. F., Rudy, T., & Weiner, D. K. (2008). Persistent pain biases item response on the geriatric depression scale (GDS): Preliminary evidence for validity of the GDS-pain. American Academy of Pain Medicine, 9(1), 33–43.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. King, J. E. (2003). Running a best-subsets logistic regression: An alternative to stepwise methods. Educational and Psychological Measurement, 63, 392–403.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Koenig, H. G., King, D. E., & Carson, V. B. (2012). Handbook of religion and health (2nd ed.). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  18. Krause, N. (1999). Assessing change in social support during late life. Research on Aging, 21, 539–569.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Krause, N. (2006). Exploring the stress-buffering effects of church-based and secular social support on self-rated health in late life. Journal of Gerontology, 61((B)(1)), 35–43.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Kuo, B. C. H., Chong, V., & Joseph, J. (2008). Depression and its psychosocial correlation among older Asian immigrants in North America. Journal of Aging and Health, 20(6), 615–652.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Kwon, H. Y., Kim, K. C., & Warner, R. S. (2001). Korean Americans and their religions: Pilgrims and missionaries from a different shore. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press.Google Scholar
  22. Lee, Y. S., & Hadeed, L. (2009). Intimate partner violence among Asian immigrant communities: Health/mental health consequences, help-seeking behaviors, and service utilization. Trauma, Violence & Abuse, 10(2), 143–170.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Lee, M. S., Crittenden, K. S., & Yu, E. (1996). Social support and depression among elderly Korean immigrants in the United States. International Journal of Aging and Human Development, 42(4), 313–327.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Lee, Y. S., Moon, A., & Gomez, C. (2014). Elder mistreatment, culture, and help-seeking: A cross-cultural comparison of older Chinese and Korean immigrants. Journal of Elder Abuse & Neglect, 26(3), 244–269.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Lubben, J. E., Gironda, M. W., & Lee, A. (2001). Refinements to the Lubben social network scale: The LSNS-R. The Behavioral Measurements Letter, 7, 2–11.Google Scholar
  26. Mallows, C. L. (1973). Some comments on Cp. Technometrics, 15, 661–675.Google Scholar
  27. Mui, A. C. (1996). Depression among elderly Chinese immigrants: An exploratory study. Social Work, 41(6), 633–645.Google Scholar
  28. Oxman, T., & Hull, J. (2001). Social support and treatment response in older depressed primary care patients. Journal of Gerontology, 56B, 35–45.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Pargament, K. I. (1997). The psychology of religion and coping: Theory, research, practice. New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  30. Pargament, K. I. (2007). Spiritually integrated psychotherapy: Understanding and addressing the sacred. New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  31. Park, J., Roh, S., & Yeo, Y. (2012). Religiosity, social support, and life satisfaction among elderly Korean immigrants. The Gerontologist, 52(5), 641–649.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Pfeiffer, E. (1975). A short portable mental status questionnaire for the assessment of organic brain deficit in elderly patients. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 23, 433–441.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Roh, S. (2010). The impact of religion, spirituality, and social support on depression and life satisfaction among Korean immigrant older adults. (doctoral dissertation). ProQuest dissertations and theses database (UMI no. 3432768).Google Scholar
  34. Roh, S., Lee, K. H., & Yoon, D. P. (2013). General well-being of Korean immigrant elders: The significance of religiousness/spirituality and social support. Journal of Social Service Research, 39, 483–497.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Roh, S., Lee, Y. S., Lee, J., & Martin, J. (2014). Typology of religiosity/spirituality in relation to perceived health, depression, and life satisfaction among older Korean immigrants. Aging & Mental Health, 18(4), 444–453.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Roh, S., Lee, Y. S., Lee, K. H., Shibusawa, T., & Yoo, G. J. (2015). Friends, depressive symptoms, and life satisfaction among older Korean Americans. Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health, 17, 1091–1097.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Schwarz, G. (1978). Estimating the dimension of a model. The Annals of Statistics, 6, 461–464.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Shibusawa, T., & Mui, A. C. (2001). Stress, coping, and depression among Japanese American elders. Journal of Gerontological Social Work, 36(1/2), 63–81.Google Scholar
  39. Taylor, R. J., Chatters, L. M., & Levin, J. (2004). Religion in the lives of African Americans: Social, psychological, and health perspectives. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  40. Taylor, R. J., Chatters, L. M., & Abelson, J. M. (2012). Religious involvement and DSM IV 12 month and lifetime major depressive disorder among African Americans. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 200(10), 856–862.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Tirrito, T., & Choi, G. (2004). Ethnically diverse elders: A community action model. Journal of Religious Gerontology, 16(1/2), 123–142.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. U.S. Census Bureau (2007). The American Community—Asians: 2004 American Community Survey Reports. Retrieved from
  43. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. (2012). 2012 HHS Poverty Guidelines. Washington, DC: Author.Google Scholar
  44. Vink, D., Aartsen, M. J., & Schoevers, R. A. (2008). Risk factors for anxiety and depression in the elderly: A review. Journal of Affective Disorders, 106, 29–44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Watson, L., Garrett, J., Sloane, P., Gruber-Baldini, G., & Zimmerman, S. (2003). Depression in assisted living: Results from a four-state study. American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 11, 534–542.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Wong, S. T., Yoo, G. J., & Stewart, A. L. (2005). Examining the types of social support and the actual sources of support in older Chinese and Korean immigrants. International Journal of Aging and Human Development, 61(2), 105–121.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Yesavage, J. A., Brink, T. L., Rose, T. A., Lum, O., Huang, V., Adey, M. B., & Leirer, V. O. (1983). Development and validation of a geriatric depression screening scale: A preliminary report. Journal of Psychiatric Research, 44, 739–746.Google Scholar
  48. Yoo, G. J., & Wood, S. (2013). Challenges and opportunities for improving health in the Korean American community. In G. J. Yoo, M.-N. Le, & A. Y. Oda (Eds.), Handbook of Asian American health (pp. 73–85). New York: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yeon-Shim Lee
    • 1
    Email author
  • So-Young Park
    • 2
  • Soonhee Roh
    • 3
  • Harold G. Koenig
    • 4
  • Grace J. Yoo
    • 5
  1. 1.School of Social WorkSan Francisco State UniversitySan FranciscoUSA
  2. 2.Silver School of Social WorkNew York UniversityNew YorkUSA
  3. 3.Department of Social WorkUniversity of South DakotaSioux FallsUSA
  4. 4.Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral SciencesDuke University Medical CenterDurhamUSA
  5. 5.Department of Asian American StudiesSan Francisco State UniversitySan FranciscoUSA

Personalised recommendations