Core symptoms of depression are likely universal, however cultural groups differ in their experience of the condition. The purpose of this study was to examine differences and similarities of depression symptom groupings between broad cultural groups.
6,982 adults took part in an online multilingual depression screening study, and completed an 18-item major depression screener. Participants were categorized into five broad cultural groups by language and country of residence: Spanish speakers from Latin America (n = 3,411); English speakers from Southeast Asia (n = 1,265); Russian speakers from the former Soviet bloc (n = 642); English speakers from English-speaking Western countries (n = 999); and Chinese speakers from China (n = 665). Principal components analysis with promax rotation was used.
Both similarities and noteworthy differences in symptom clustering between groups were observed. For instance, though suicide-related items formed a separate cluster for most cultures, for the Latin-American group, worthlessness loaded with suicidality. Changes in appetite and changes in weight tended to load on different factors (except for Chinese and Russian groups). Hypersomnia tended to load with psychomotor agitation, and core depression symptoms tended to load with physical symptoms (except for the Russian group).
Depression was assessed by a self-report measure aligned to DSM-IV.
The analysis contributes to a nuanced understanding of depression manifestations of various cultures, which may inform culturally sensitive clinical practice.