Ethnocultural Identity Clarity and the Associations with Psychological Distress and Stigma of Depression

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Boonmak, Paul
Mental health , Culture , Epidemiology , Stigma of mental illness , University
Background: Canadian universities are becoming more multicultural in the past decades. Students also report high level of depressive and anxiety symptoms, as well as their related stigma. Past studies that explored the associations between cultural variables and psychological well-being often categorized a participant as coming from a single ethnocultural group, disregarding the individual cultural processes that a multicultural individual experiences. We explored two ethnocultural variables: 1) ethnocultural groups (the cultural group that a person identifies with), and 2) cultural identity clarity (how much a multicultural person is clear on who they are culturally), and how they were associated with psychological distress and the level of public stigma of depression. Methods: After literature search, related questionnaires were identified, and additional questions were compiled into a single survey package. A total of 4,215 Queen’s University students were invited to participate in the study. We first evaluated the performance of the Cultural Identity Clarity Scale. We then explored the association between cultural identity clarity and psychological distress using the modified Poisson regression. The relationship between ethnocultural group and stigma of depression was explored using ordinal logistic regression. All models were adjusted for demographic variables that were relevant to the post-secondary environment. Results: Our final sample size was 750 students. The Cultural Identity Clarity Scale performed well among our sample, with good reliability and convergent validity. Multicultural students who were clearer on who they were culturally experienced a lower risk of being psychologically distressed compared to those who were less clear on who they were. We also found that the levels of stigma of depression were different depending on the identified ethnocultural group among multicultural international students. Conclusion: Our findings suggested that ethnocultural factors may be implicated in psychological well-being and stigma of mental illness in post-secondary settings. We propose future research to focus on the individual multicultural process alongside the exploration of ethnocultural groups when conducting research around the multicultural population. We also recommended a mental health service approach that is culturally inclusive and specific, as well as an anti-stigma program that is more targeted to address the cultural components of stigma.
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