The Impacts of Life Events on Depression in Later Life among Older Hmong Immigrants

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Yang, Mai See
Aging; Depression; Immigrants; Life course; Mental Health; Older Hmong Refugees; Gerontology
thesis / dissertation description
Previous research demonstrated that life experiences and social support are predictors of later life mental health status. Although previous studies have established mental health as a major public health concern among Southeast Asians in the US, we lack information about ways in which their life events may contribute to their mental health status, especially in later life. This study focused specifically on older Hmong immigrants’ life experiences from three life phases: pre-migration, transition, and post-migration. The study was theoretically informed by the Stress Process Model, which identifies early life experiences and stresses as contributing to late-life health outcomes. Special focus was directed toward ways in which the migration process disrupted family and clan networks, which in this population were central to identity and well-being. The initial phase of research examined these life experiences and the extent to which they have impacted reported experiences with depression. A second phase of the research included validation of a mental health instrument among older Hmong immigrants.For this project, both qualitative and quantitative methods were employed. The qualitative method allowed for an in-depth understanding of events that occurred throughout the participants’ life course and how these events impacted depression in later life. Grounded Theory served as the framework to analyze the data. The qualitative component was carried out in California. To validate the Hopkins Symptom Checklist-10 items inventory, quantitative data was collected in California and Minnesota.The overall findings for this study suggested that older Hmong adults living in the US experienced stressors and depression throughout the lifespan (i.e., pre-migration, transition, and post-migration). The desire for social connection and support to help ease the experiences of war, diaspora, and post-migration adjustment was a common thread for this population. The findings from this project provided information that was much needed to fully understand their life course and current adjustment in later life with respect to mental health.