Depression and anxiety symptoms, acculturation, depression stigma and psychological help-seeking among Russian-speaking skilled immigrants

2017-02-17T01:32:22Z (GMT) by Demutska, Alla
Immigrants constitute 24 percent of the Australian population, with skilled immigration becoming the fastest growing migration stream in Australia. Nonetheless, epidemiological data and systematic research of this population is lacking. Most recent Russian-speaking immigrants coming from the Former Soviet Union (FSU) have arrived to Australia on the skilled immigrant program, and there is also a lack of research on this particular cultural group. Skilled immigrants are expected to adapt better than many other groups for several factors, including better English proficiency, younger age, better physical and mental health due to strict visa requirements, and better professional prospects. However, previous studies with immigrants showed that this group often have more mental health issues than the host population. In particular, previous research with Russian-speaking immigrants indicated that they had difficulties with adaptation in host countries, and typically had high levels of mental health problems compared to the host and other immigrant groups. Hence, it is important to investigate the specifics of acculturation in this group and research factors impeding or facilitating the process of acculturation. There is also a lack of information about the help seeking attitudes and depression stigma in FSU immigrants living in Australia. It may be expected that FSU immigrants, like other immigrant groups, are reluctant to present for professional psychological help for mental health problems such as depression. The research conducted and presented in this thesis is a series of empirical investigations linked to these research aims. The research aims were mostly exploratory because little research has been conducted with this specific group in the Australian context. Sixty five Russian-speaking immigrants, 65 Russian speaking non-immigrants and 63 Anglo-Australians were recruited through social clubs, community web forums and web groups, churches, schools, and universities. All participants completed online questionnaires which included the Centre for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale, the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory, Interpersonal Support Evaluation List, Perceived Stress Scale, Depression Stigma Scale, Attitudes toward Seeking Mental Health Services Scale and socio-demographic questions. Russian-speaking immigrants completed additional socio-demographic questions and the Language, Identity and Behaviour (LIB) scales to measure acculturation, and the Demands of Immigration scale to measure immigration stress. In the first study of the thesis, we looked into the mental health of Russian-speaking skilled immigrants to Australia. We compared levels of depressive and anxiety symptoms in this group with a Russian-speaking sample living in the FSU and an Anglo-Australian sample. Results indicated that the immigrant group scored significantly lower on the depression and anxiety measures than the two comparative groups. Although demographic differences between three groups were observed, they did not account for the differences in depressive and anxiety symptoms. In the second study of the thesis, we explored relationships between measures of Russian and Australian acculturation and immigration stress and whether Russian immigrants endorse a bidimensional acculturation model. The sub-sample consisting only of immigrants from the FSU living in Australia was selected. Results indicated that that immigration stress was related to retaining of Russian culture and a decrease in Australian acculturation, after controlling for socio-demographic factors. No association between the Russian and Australian dimensions of acculturation was found which supports the notion that acculturation can occur independently along both host and native dimensions. Limitations and future directions are discussed. In the third study of the thesis, depression stigma and psychological help-seeking attitudes were compared in immigrants from the FSU living in Australia, a Russian-speaking sample living in the FSU, and an Anglo-Australian sample. Results indicated that the Russian-speaking immigrants were more likely to have more perceived stigma, and less personal stigma than the Australian sample. Anglo-Australians were found to be higher on Psychological Openness and Help-seeking Propensity subscales, than Russian immigrants, while Russian non-immigrants and Russian immigrants did not differ from each other on these measures. No relationship between acculturation factors, depression stigma and psychological help-seeking was found in the present study. Taken together, the findings indicate that Russian-speaking skilled immigrants may have a different trajectory of adaptation compared to many other immigrant groups. Limitations and implications are discussed.