Studies in general and psychiatric populations have mainly reported higher rates of somatisation in immigrants. Cross-cultural studies, confirmed that East-Asian non-immigrant patients reported fewer psychological and more somatic symptoms in depression. However studies on somatisation in depression are lacking for Vietnamese migrants in Europe.
To explore whether Vietnamese outpatients, who utilized a psychiatric outpatient clinic in Germany had a tendency to present more somatic symptoms in depression.
For FG Vietnamese outpatients, psychological symptoms were assessed by depression-scale (PHQ-9) and somatic symptoms were assessed by the Somatic-symptom-scale (PHQ-15) in Vietnamese language by a Vietnamese psychiatrist. German outpatients who were assessed in the same outpatient clinic where matched for age, gender and diagnosis of MDE. Differences in PHQ-9 and PHQ-15 scales where analyzed with an ANOVA and single-item-differences of PHQ where analyzed with Mann-Whithney-Tests.
43 FG Vietnamese immigrants and 43 native german outpatients where included. While we found no differences on the total score of the PHQ-9 between both groups, FG-Vietnamese outpatients had an overall higher total score on somatic-symptom-scale PHQ-15. When analyzing somatic items FG-Vietnamese outpatients reported significantly more somatic symptoms of headache, chest-pain, dizziness and fainting.
Depressed Vietnamese outpatients reported psychological symptoms of depression at similar levels as matched native German outpatients. Vietnamese outpatients had a higher total score for somatic symptoms, and that difference was driven by a subset of somatic items. We concluded, that emphasis on somatic symptoms does not reflect a minimization of psychological symptoms in FG-Vietnamese outpatients seeking help for depression.