Date of Award

5-1-2014

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Educational Psychology

First Advisor

Asner-Self, Kimberly

Abstract

For more than four decades, researchers have found depression to be a common mental illness among the elderly (Charatan, 1975; Sreevani & Reddemma, 2012). In Malaysia, the rates of depression among elderly residents of institutions are 67% higher than among elderly adults residing at home (Al-Jawad, Rashid, & Narayan, 2007). As in the United States, elderly Malaysian women are twice as likely to be diagnosed with depressive symptoms as elderly men (Salimah et al., 2008). Time and again, research has revealed that depression is a significant problem for individuals later in life and may affect their psychological well-being. The purpose of this cross-sectional study was to examine the relationship among depression and factors of psychological well-being among Malay, Chinese, and Indian elderly women living in four Rumah Seri Kenangans (RSKs), or public welfare institutions in Malaysia. Face-to-face interviews were conducted from August to October 2013 to measure participants' baseline depression, perceived social support, spiritual intelligence, self-esteem, and level of social desirability. A diverse group of 163 elderly women participated in this study, including 84 ethnic Malays (51.5%), 43 ethnic Chinese (26.4%), and 36 ethnic Indians (22.1%) with an average age of 70 (SD = 7.10). The results indicated that there were significant differences between the three ethnic groups in terms of their depression, spiritual intelligence, and perceived social support. Chinese elderly women were found to have higher baseline rates of depression, lower spiritual intelligence, and lower perceived social support than Malay as well as Indian elderly women. The results indicated that 37% of the combination of spiritual intelligence, perceived social support, self-esteem, and social desirability significantly predicted depression among elderly female participants (F(4,127)=22.77, p < .001). However, only perceived social support and self-esteem were found to be significant predictors of depression among the elderly women of the selected RSKs. These results led to some important implications for practitioners working with the elderly population in institutions, as well as for counselor educators. Limitations and recommendations for future research are also provided.

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