The Relationship between Acculturation and Mental Health among Black Zimbabwean Immigrants in New Zealand A Cross Sectional Survey

Summary of the Thesis

The purpose of the thesis is to examine the relationship between acculturation and mental health status of Zimbabweans of Black origin who are settled in New Zealand. Acculturation was measured using the Vancouver Index of Acculturation questionnaire responses, and mental health status was measured using the whoqol questionnaires. XXX has written that acculturation is important for good mental health(Berry 2006).

Chapter 1: Introduction to the Problem and Research Questions

Introduction and Background


Migration, Acculturation and Health

Acculturation & Measurement

Acculturation refers to a dual process of psychological and cultural change, which affects individuals and groups as a result of continuous, first-hand contact between a minority culture and a dominant culture. It is perceived as a progressive adoption of a foreign culture in terms of values, ideas, norms and behavior (Berry 2006). Acculturation can also be described as a process where an individual will negotiate two or more cultures (Yeh, 2003). According to James (1997), acculturation involves changes in an individual’s thinking patterns, social activities and behavior.
Researchers (Borges & Ostwald, 2008; Jurkowski, Westin, & Rossy-Millan, 2010; Mainous, Diaz & Geesey, 2008) have used a range of acculturation measures, with some using one or two proxy indicators including birthplace, language proficiency and length of residence. Acculturation is a complex phenomenon and involves multiple areas such as identity, values, attitudes and behaviours. These multiple areas could be a problem as they can go beyond the proxy indicators (Chun, Chesla & Kwan, 2011). In order to understand the relationship between acculturation and mental health and to ascertain if higher degrees of acculturation is associated with better mental health outcomes, a multidimensional model of acculturation will be used. Many people have experienced mental problems at some stage in their life, which can be experienced as part of our daily lives through to long term conditions. Mental health issues refer to all mental disorders which are characterized by changes in moods, behaviors and thinking (US Department of Health and Human Services, 2001).

According to Shorland (2005), indications of successful immigrants are when they settle down and remain in the country after acquiring permanent residence. However this process of ‘settling down’ is not uniform among immigrants and can vary depending on motives for and duration of stay after migration. Motivations identified range across the political, economic, social and cultural, but the most common are ‘pull factors’ such as better economic opportunities, living conditions and further education (Bhugra, 2003). In contrast, ‘push’ factors such as man-made and natural disasters, famine and poverty are more likely to influence the involuntary migration decisions of refugees (Hernandez-Plaza, Garcia-Ramirez, Camacho & Paloma, 2010). Migrants may be classified as long or short term based on whether they have resided in the new country for more or less than a year (United Nations (UN) Department of Economics and Social Affairs, Population Division, 2011) and by their motive for migration, whether it is voluntary or forced (Bhugra, 2003).