Older Korean cancer survivors' depression and coping: Directions toward culturally competent interventions

Hee Yun Lee, Seok Won Jin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Studies have consistently shown cancer diagnosis and treatment to be associated with increased depression. However, research that directly examines the depression and coping strategies of older minority cancer survivors is sparse. Addressing that gap, this study examines depression and coping strategies among older Korean immigrant cancer survivors. A qualitative method approach was utilized by interviewing 15 survivors from the state of New York (NY) and nine from Minnesota (MN). Each interview was digitally audio-recorded and transcribed verbatim in Korean. Grounded theory was employed to analyze the data, using Atlas ti 5.0. Analysis of the MN interviews showed two depression factors: (1) physical deterioration and (2) fear of death. For the NY interviews, analysis highlighted the following factor: loneliness due to disconnectedness from community. Analysis of the MN and the NY interviews for depression coping strategies revealed two primary internal coping strategies: (1) reliance on religion through prayer and (2) psychological strength by avoiding negative thoughts. For external strategies, analysis suggested three shared strategies: (1) social and religious support, (2) medical service utilization, and (3) health management by exercise. Regional differences related to depression factors imply that survivors living in the NY area may need more social support, whereas survivors living in the MN area may need more knowledge around physical changes that follow cancer treatment. Regional similarities across results indicate that availability of social support is a critical factor relieving depression. Thus, specialized intervention programs for reducing depression among cancer survivors should consider regional features.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)357-376
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Psychosocial Oncology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1 2013


  • cancer survivors
  • coping
  • culture
  • depression
  • elderly Korean immigrants
  • social support

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