Cultural Differences in Symptom Representation for Depression and Somatization Measured by the PHQ between Vietnamese and German Psychiatric Outpatients
Dreher, Annegret; Hahn, Eric; Diefenbacher, Albert; Nguyen, Thi Main Huong; Böge, Kerem; Burian, Hannah; Dettling, Michael; Burian, Ronald; Ta, Thi Minh Tam – 2017
OBJECTIVE Despite an extensive body of research on somatic symptom presentation among people of East- and Southeast-Asian descent, results are still inconclusive. Examining and comparing symptom presentation in clinically and ethnically well-characterized populations may constitute a step towards understanding symptom presentation between patients with a different cultural background. This study aims to compare Vietnamese and German patients regarding cultural dynamics of symptom presentation upon first admission to a psychiatric outpatient service. METHODS 110 Vietnamese and 109 German patients seeking psychiatric treatment at two outpatient clinics completed the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ). The somatic symptom subscale (PHQ-15), the depression subscale (PHQ-9) and PHQ-subscales examining anxiety and psychosocial stress levels were analyzed and compared for both groups using multivariate analysis of covariance. Regression analysis was utilized to examine the influences of sociodemographic and migration specific factors. RESULTS Vietnamese and German patients showed comparable Cronbach's alpha for all subscales. Vietnamese patients endorsed significantly higher levels of somatic symptoms overall and on certain items (as pain-related items, dizziness, and fainting spells) despite similar levels of depression severity in comparison with German patients. Vietnamese patients with poor German language skills showed a significantly higher focus on somatic symptoms. CONCLUSION Raising awareness for cultural dynamics of symptom presentation in patients with depression is indispensable. Cross-cultural symptom assessment using the PHQ seems feasible and expands our understanding of depressive and psychosomatic symptoms when assessed by clinicians.