Academic journal article Social Work

Correlates of Depression among Older Kurdish Refugees

Academic journal article Social Work

Correlates of Depression among Older Kurdish Refugees

Article excerpt

The number of older Kurds who have immigrated to the United States has grown rapidly over the past two decades. According to the 2000 U.S. census, there were 1.2 million individuals from Arab-speaking countries residing in the United States (U. S. Census Bureau, 2009). Of these, close to 10,000 were Kurds. Kurds who fled their homeland often lived through war, displacement, extermination attempts, and life in refugee camps. Yet little is known about the needs of this particular refugee population. Experts have noted that the population of older immigrants and refugees is expanding at a rate consistent with the rise in American-born older adults (A. C. Mui & Kang, 2006). Of particular concern to the social services community is the prevalence of refugees and immigrants suffering from mental health issues, including depression, anxiety, and posttraumatic stress disorder (Fenta, Hyman, & Noh, 2004; Kim, Hart, Shin, Kim, & Lee, 2005). Rates of suicide and depression are particularly high among older populations, and older refugees and immigrants are no exception (A. C. Mui, 1996; Stokes, Thompson, Murphy, & Gallagher-Thompson, 2001). Furthermore, studies have shown higher rates of suicide and greater occurrences of depression in immigrant and refugee populations than in the dominant or general population (A. C. Mui, 1996; Stokes et al., 2001). However, despite the prevalence of mental health issues, older immigrants' mental health needs often go unrecognized and untreated (Kim et al., 2005;A. C. Mui & Kang, 2006; Wilmoth & Chen, 2003).

Research indicates that immigrants and refugees relocating from war-torn countries are particularly vulnerable to mental health concerns because many have experienced premigration traumas and face further postmigration traumas after relocation to the United States (Fenta et al., 2004; Pumariega, Rothe, & Pumariega, 2005). Since 9/11, immigrants who are members of ethnic groups that arouse suspicion in the United States, particularly immigrants from the Middle East, have been especially prone to psychiatric distress (Jamil, Nassar-McMillan, & Lambert, 2007; Salari, 2002). Although research has been conducted on the psychological status of a variety of immigrant groups, experts warn that research studies aggregating data across various immigrant and age groups often produces inaccurate generalizations (Kuo & Torres-Gil, 2001). Therefore, additional research is needed to gain a greater understanding of the prevalence and nature of mental health disorders among specific immigrant populations. Such information is essential for the development and provision of culturally aware and age-sensitive social services. Although a body of research exists on the mental health needs of immigrants, only a few studies have examined the psychological status of Middle Eastern immigrants (Chaaya, Sibai, Fayad, & El-Roueiheb, 2007; Hashemian et al., 2006; Jamil et al., 2007), and only one of these (Chaaya et al., 2007) focused on older Middle Easterners, a group that has been labeled an "invisible" population in aging research (Salari, 2002). To date, no research has specifically focused on the mental health status of older Kurdish immigrants. The research reported here addressed this gap by examining factors associated with the psychological well-being of older Kurds living in a midsize southern city that is home to the largest group of Kurds living outside of Kurdistan.

Kurds have fled their traditional homeland-which encompasses eastern Turkey, northern iraq, northwestern Iran, and Syria--and relocated to the United States in several waves, predominately in correlation with military conflicts (Gibney & Hansen, 2005; Reimers, 2005). Early immigrations to the United States followed World Wars I and II. Subsequent immigrations to the United States followed the Iran-Iraqi war in the late 1980s, the 1991 invasion of Saddam Hussein into Kuwait and the ensuing Gulf War, and the U. …

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