Relationship of social isolation with mental distress among older Korean Americans: The moderating role of social cohesion

Nan Sook Park, Yuri Jang, Jung Won Yoon, Soondool Chung, David A. Chiriboga

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Social isolation has been associated with poor mental health outcomes, particularly for older immigrants who do not have a protective social environment. The purpose of this study was to investigate the relationship of social isolation (living alone, marginal family ties and marginal friend ties) with mental distress and to examine the moderating role of social cohesion (family cohesion and community cohesion). We hypothesised that social isolation and social cohesion would be directly associated with mental distress and that social cohesion would buffer the influence of social isolation on mental distress. Data were drawn from the Study of Older Korean Americans (SOKA), which included 2150 older Korean Americans aged 60 or over in multiple areas, collected during 2017–2018. A series of hierarchical regression models of mental distress examined the direct and interactive role of social isolation and social cohesion. Approximately one-third of the sample lived alone, 20% had marginal family ties and 27% had marginal friend ties. All three indicators of social isolation had a significant direct effect on mental health; however, living alone lost its statistical significance with the inclusion of social cohesion variables. Both indicators of family and community cohesion were significantly associated with lower levels of mental distress. In addition, family cohesion buffered the negative effects of marginal ties to family and friends on mental distress. The significant role of a positive social environment must be considered when addressing the needs of older immigrants who are socially isolated.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e4909-e4919
JournalHealth and Social Care in the Community
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2022

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© 2022 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


  • mental distress
  • older Korean Americans
  • social cohesion
  • social isolation


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