Background. This paper seeks to explain an excess of
psychological distress previously found among
groups of British South Asians (with ancestry from the Indian subcontinent)
living in Glasgow,
compared with the general population. The excess was found on a
psychosomatic measure and a
measure of self-assessed distress but not on a clinically validated
measure (the General Health
Questionnaire or GHQ). The paper investigates whether South Asians
are subject to stressful
situations to which the GHQ is less sensitive than the other two measures.
Methods. Random samples of 159 South Asians aged 30–40,
mean age 35, and 319 from the general
population, all aged 35, were interviewed in Glasgow, using the
12-item General Health
Questionnaire (GHQ-12), a psychosomatic symptom scale (PSS) and a
self-assessment of distress.
Subcultural groupings were differentiated by South Asian origin, English
fluency, religion, and
gender. Stressful situations assessed were experience of assault,
stress/dissatisfaction with work,
overcrowding, low standard of living, absence of family and absence of
Results. The GHQ-12 was less sensitive to certain stressful
situations than the other two measures.
The PSS and/or self-assessed distress were more sensitive to low
standard of living, self-rated stress
in work around the house and possibly experience of assault. In a
combined analysis, the relation
between distress on the PSS or self-assessed measure and subcultural
groupings became non-significant, while the relation between distress and
key stressful situations remained significant.
Conclusions. The greater distress of women, Muslims and limited
English speakers is largely
explained by the stressful situations they experience. The GHQ-12
under-estimates distress related
to situations experienced particularly by ethnic minorities and by women.