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Cultural differences in depression-related stigma in late-life: a comparison between the USA, Russia, and South Korea

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  25 May 2012

Carolyn L. Turvey*
Department of Psychiatry, University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa, USA
Gerald Jogerst
University of Iowa College of Medicine, Iowa City, Iowa, USA
Mee Young Kim
Hallym University Medical Center, Seoul, South Korea
Elena Frolova
Medical Academy of Postgraduate Studies, St. Petersburg, Russia
Correspondence should be addressed to: Carolyn L. Turvey, PhD, Psychiatry Research-MEB, University of Iowa, 500 Newton Road, 2-204 MEB, Iowa City, IA 52242-1000, USA. Phone: +1 319-353-5312; Fax: +1 319-353-3003. Email:


Background: Depression is a common and treatable illness in late-life. However, many do not seek treatment and may suffer from the stigma of the illness, which may vary across cultures. The aim of this study was to compare attitudes about depression in primary care practices in South Korea, Russia, and the USA.

Methods: A cross-sectional study was undertaken using a self-administered questionnaire and PHQ-9 diagnostic survey with 1,094 patients aged 60–93 years who attended a primary care clinic in Korea, Russia, or the USA.

Results: The mean age of participants was 71 years, with 61% being female. US patients were older and had higher education levels. Russian participants were more likely to be widowed and had lower self-rated health. The majority of participants agreed that depression is a kind of disease (Korea 77%, Russia 61%, USA 79%). Only 6% of US patients believed depression means a person is weak, compared to 78% (Korea) and 61% (Russia). Fewer US patients endorsed depression as a normal part of aging (29% vs. Korea at 42% and Russia at 54%). Among participants in the USA, age correlated negatively with endorsement of a medical model of depression (p = <0.001).

Conclusions: Though there was wide variation between countries in attitudes about depression, the majority of each endorsed items reflected a medical model of depression. Korean and Russian participants endorsed the view of depression as a personal weakness more than participants in the USA. Demographic correlates of negative attitudes about depression were moderate to weak.

Research Article
Copyright © International Psychogeriatric Association 2012

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