Community leaders’ perceptions of depression and the perceived barriers in seeking mental health services for older Korean Americans

Eunhye Kim, Tiffany R. Washington, Rosalyn Denise Campbell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Objectives: This study explored community leaders’ understanding of depression among older Korean Americans and barriers to seeking mental health services. Depression is prevalent among older Korean Americans, but they are less likely to seek help from professionals and prefer to use informal methods. Older Korean Americans strongly prefer to maintain their ethnic traditions and use community service agencies provided by their same ethnicity. In this regard, community leaders who provide services for older adults play a significant role in not only advocating for the population but also in developing services and programs for their communities. Design: In this qualitative study, 12 Korean community leaders who provide services for older adults were interviewed. Data were analyzed thematically, and Nvivo 12 was used to organize the data and to detect relevant themes. Results: Findings showed that community leaders had an in-depth understanding of the causes of depression from environmental and cultural contexts including isolation, losing independence, cultural factors, and lack of family support. However, although the leaders were aware of the severity of depression among older Korean Americans, they did not understand biologically-based factors; rather, they considered it a natural part of aging. Findings indicated that they were biased towards older adults like older Korean Americans, attributing depressive symptoms to personality issues. They also heavily rely on personal experiences to understand depression instead of on having educational training. Barriers to getting help for older adults include lack of the perceived need of older adults, lack of professionals, and a prevalent stigma against depression that encourages individuals to hide their illness. Conclusions: The findings indicated that community-based educational training is necessary to increase understanding of depression not only for the community leaders but also for individuals and families.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1483-1500
Number of pages18
JournalEthnicity and Health
Issue number7
StatePublished - 2022


  • Community leaders
  • barriers
  • depression
  • older Korean Americans
  • understanding of depression

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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