Race/ethnicity and depressive symptoms: a cross-cultural/ethnic comparison among university students in East Asia, North and South America

Soc Sci Med. 2002 Dec;55(12):2243-52. doi: 10.1016/s0277-9536(02)00003-5.


To examine manifestations of depressive symptomatology among undergraduate students in East Asia, North and South America, responses to the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CES-D) were compared across Japanese (n = 310), Anglo-American (n = 377), Native American (n = 353), and Argentinean (n = 110) undergraduate students. Japanese reported a significantly higher level of low positive affect, leading to significantly higher total CES-D scores, whereas their negative symptoms score was comparable to scores of Anglo-Americans and Argentineans. Although Native Americans were more likely to endorse negative symptoms, their low positive affect score was comparable to those of Argentineans. Argentineans appear to suffer less from depressive symptoms. Results from a Differential Item Functioning analysis, using Anglo-Americans as the reference group, indicated that: (1) the manifestation of depressive symptoms seemed to be similar for Anglo-Americans and Argentineans, except for low positive affect; (2) Native Americans tended to favor somatic symptoms over affective (depressive) symptoms; (3) responses to positive affect questions could possibly be biased not only for Japanese but also for people in North America; i.e., the expression of positive affect might be enhanced in North American culture, while inhibited in Japanese culture.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cross-Cultural Comparison
  • Depressive Disorder / ethnology*
  • Depressive Disorder / physiopathology
  • Far East / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • North America / epidemiology
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Risk Factors
  • Self-Assessment
  • South America / epidemiology
  • Students / psychology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Universities