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Acta Psychiatr Scand. 2005 Feb;111(2):84-93.

Cultural identities and cultural congruency: a new model for evaluating mental distress in immigrants.

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Section of Cultural Psychiatry, Institute of Psychiatry, De Crespigny Park, London, UK.



Societies and cultures have been described as being individualistic or collectivist (also called ego-centric or socio-centric). Similarly individuals are idiocentric or allocentric.


Using migration, migrants, ethnic minorities, collectivism and individualism, four databases of Embase, Medline, PsychInfo and Social Sciences abstracts were searched. Other key words included mental disorder, mental distress, psychiatric and psychological disorders. In addition, hand searches were conducted from the relevant books, monographs and secondary references.


Migration, cultural identity and mental distress are linked. In addition, social support can provide a buffer against mental illness. Other vulnerability factors in migrants include the type of society they originate from and the type of society they settle in.


When individuals migrate from one type of culture to another it is likely that depending upon their own personality traits (along with their biopsycho-social vulnerabilities) may develop psychiatric disorders. The cognitions and idioms of distress will be influenced by cultural factors. The clinicians must take into account cultural background when planning any interventions to enable a stronger therapeutic alliance.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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