International Psychogeriatrics

Research Article

Depression literacy among older Chinese immigrants in Canada: a comparison with a population-based survey

Yvonne Tieua1 c1, Candace Konnerta1 and JianLi Wanga2

a1 Department of Psychology, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

a2 Department of Psychiatry and of Community Health Sciences, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada


Background: Investigations of mental health literacy are important because the recognition of a mental health problem is the first step in seeking appropriate mental health care. Lack of recognition is a significant barrier to accessing mental health resources. Older Chinese immigrants are at increased risk for depression; however, there is no research investigating their depression literacy, including their beliefs about treatment, etiology, and prognosis.

Methods: This study investigated depression literacy among 53 older Chinese immigrants in Canada (aged 55–87 years) and compared their literacy to Canadian-born participants of the same age who were part of a larger population-based survey. Depression literacy was assessed through interviews using a case vignette and included the following indices: rates of correct identification of depression; perceived efficacy of various people, professions and treatments; and perceptions of etiology and prognosis.

Results: In the Chinese sample, 11.3% correctly identified depression in the case vignette. In contrast, 74.0% of participants in the population-based survey correctly identified depression. Differences in the perceptions of helpful people and interventions, etiology, and prognosis were also noted between the samples. Both samples strongly endorsed physical activity as helpful in the treatment of depression.

Conclusions: In light of these results, it is clear that older Chinese immigrants would benefit from information regarding the symptoms, etiology, and treatment of depression, and that this information may begin to address the serious underutilization of mental health services among this group. Our discussion highlights practice implications and promising interventions.

(Received March 12 2010)

(Revised May 03 2010)

(Revised June 22 2010)

(Accepted June 24 2010)

(Online publication September 03 2010)


c1 Correspondence should be addressed to: Yvonne Tieu, Department of Psychology, University of Calgary, 2500 University Drive NW, Calgary, Alberta, Canada, T2N 1N4. Phone: +1–403-220 4975; Fax: +1–403-282-8249. Email: