Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

The Impact of Gender, Culture, and Society on Korean Women's Mental Health

Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

The Impact of Gender, Culture, and Society on Korean Women's Mental Health

Article excerpt

Culture is a matrix of beliefs, values, and norms that inform, give meaning to, and regulate behavior (Bagdasarov & Edmondson, 2013). The cultural context also includes the historical experiences that have resulted in a group's economic, social, and political status within the general social structure (Matsumoto, Yoo, & Chung, 2010), and have a significant impact on group members' psychological well-being (Bagdasarov & Edmondson, 2013). Culture and ethnicity may affect biology, identity development, and day-to-day stressors, as well as individuals' acceptance of the need for mental health treatment (Bagdasarov & Edmondson, 2013). Culture affects the way a woman views her role in society, family, country of origin, romantic relationships, parental status, and religious beliefs, and each of these roles affects the others (Kim, 2013).

Emotional experiences that affect mental health and illness manifest in distinctive forms across cultural contexts as culture-bound syndromes (Chiao, 2015), which refer to patterns of maladaptive behavior that occur within a local context and are distinct from non-culture-bound syndromes (Lee et al., 2009). A glossary of the symptoms associated with culture-bound syndromes was first included in the fourth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV; American Psychiatric Association, 2000). Recent advances in the neurobiological basis of culture-bound syndromes have provided further understanding regarding emotion and mental health across cultures (Chiao, 2015; Kitayama & Uskul, 2011).

Hwa-byung (HB; see model in Figure 1 developed by Choi, Pang, & Kim, 2006) is a Korean culture-bound syndrome that translates into English as an anger disorder. It refers to insidious, long-standing, and serious discontent that is projected into the body and is manifested by numerous symptoms, such as insomnia, fatigue, panic, palpitations, and dyspnea (Choi, 2011). It has been pointed out in epidemiologic studies that socially underserved middle-aged Korean women are at risk from suffering from HB (Min, Suh, & Song, 2009). Choi and Lee (2007) found that an estimated 4.2% of Koreans living in South Korea were affected by HB, and that this rate was higher in women with a low socioeconomic status, living in rural areas, who were divorced or separated, and who smoked and drank alcohol. In addition, in a study of Korean Americans living in Los Angeles, 12% suffered from HB - three times more than those living in Korea (Lin et al., 1992). These data suggest that Korean Americans experience stress when adjusting to immigration, which provokes anger and aggression, leading to HB. In this study, I discussed the factors of gender, culture, and society from this point of view, and also examined the relationships among these issues.

Psychological, Biological, and Social Differences in Women's Anger

Anger, which is a common psychological state experienced by everyone, consists of subjective feelings that vary in intensity from mild irritation or annoyance to intense fury and rage (Choi, 2011). The phenomenon of anger, can also be generated by interpersonal relationships. It is experienced when individuals' plans, desires, and needs are frustrated, and when they perceive the situation as unfair and a threat to their own ego (Arslan, 2010; Slavin-Spenny, Lumley, Thakur, Nevedal, & Hijazi, 2013). The prevailing belief is that women have greater difficulty than do men in expressing their anger, resulting in an increased incidence of anger suppression (Case & Oetama-Paul, 2015). This suppression is believed to result in negative consequences, such as depression, guilt, anxiety, passive aggressiveness, dependency, resentment, lack of self-definition, and low self-esteem (Videbeck, 2011).

Case and Oetama-Paul (2015) indicated that there are clear sex differences in brain systems, and that sex hormones play a role in reactions to stress and threats. …

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