The Role of Self-Rated Mental Health in Seeking Professional Mental Health Services among Older Korean Immigrants

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Aging & Mental Health

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Objectives: The gap between mental health needs and service use in racial/ethnic minorities continues to be a major public health concern. Focusing on older Korean immigrants, the present study examined linkages among mental distress, self-rated mental health (SRMH), and the use of professional mental health services. We hypothesized that SRMH would play a mediating role in the relationship between mental distress and the use of professional mental health services.

Method: Using data from the Study of Older Korean Americans (SOKA; N = 2,150, Mean age = 73.4), the direct and indirect effect models were tested.

Results: Nearly 30% of the sample fell within the category of experiencing mental distress, but only a small proportion (5.7%) had used professional mental health services. Supporting our hypothesis, the pathway from mental distress to the use of professional mental health services was influenced by an individual’s subjective perception of mental health status: the indirect effect of mental distress on service use through SRMH (.04 [.01]) was significant (bias-corrected 95% confidence interval for the indirect effect = .02, .06).

Conclusion: The findings of this study not only contribute to our understanding of help-seeking processes in a group at high mental health risk but also suggest avenues to promote their use of mental health services.


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