Mental health literacy (MHL) is the ability to understand health information originating from different sources. Little is known about ethnic differences in sources for health information, and the effect these differences has on elderly MHL. In this paper, we focus on the social networks (i.e. social connections) of elderly people from different ethnic groups, and investigate the effect these networks have on MHL. Specifically, we focus on the ethnic diversity of one's peers (ethnic diversity) as a network characteristic that can interplay with his\her MHL.
The data used in this study were gathered using a survey among elderly (over the age of 60) Native Israeli Jews (N = 147) and Immigrant Jews from the Former Soviet Union (FSU, N = 131). The survey was used to assess our participants MHL, online and offline sources of mental health information and mental health service utilization. Interviews were also conducted with each participant. The interview purpose was to map the participants' social network (using a sociogram), while indicating the attributes of the participant's peers (age, gender, ethnicity, etc.) and the nature of the interaction (online vs. offline, strength of the tie, etc.). A set of hierarchal regression analyses were then used to examine which social network attributes are correlated with MHL levels.
Our findings shows that ethnic diversity within the social networks of Immigrants from the FSU contributed to their MHL more so than for native-born Jews. Specifically, face to face maintained connections with individuals from diverse ethnic groups lead to increased knowledge about how to search for mental health information. Online maintained connections with individuals from diverse ethnic groups, lead to increase attitudes that promote recognition of mental health related issues and appropriate help-seeking.
Understanding the interplay between the ethnic diversity among one's peers and his/her MHL offers an important additional prism of examining MHL; moving beyond the individual's characteristics and examining his/her social connections as well. The relevancy of these findings for reducing MHL inequalities between native-born and elderly migrants, as well as for ethnic minorities is discussed.
This study was supported by the Israeli National Institute for Health Policy and Health Services Research (2016/22 to Nakash and Hayat). The sponsor had no role in the study design or conduct of the study; in the collection, analysis, and interpretation of the data; or in the preparation or approval of the manuscript.
Hayat, T., Nakash, O., Abu Kaf, S. and Cohen, M. (2021), "The role social diversity plays in enhancing mental health literacy among the elderly", Online Information Review, Vol. 45 No. 3, pp. 548-561. https://doi.org/10.1108/OIR-03-2020-0110
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