Health Seeking for Ambiguous Symptoms in Two Cultural Groups: A Comparative Study

Alison Karasz, Kara Dempsey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


This study examined cultural differences in health seeking for medically ambiguous symptoms in women from two culturally diverse communities. Thirty-five South Asian immigrants and 36 European Americans participated in a health history interview. Though the types and relative frequencies of practices were similar across the two groups, the goals and underlying logic supporting practices differed sharply. Among European Americans, practices were focused on the need to increase energy, creativity, and output; among South Asians, practices emphasized storing up strength through increased consumption or reduced expenditure. We conclude that the relationship between conceptual models of cause and cure depends on the ‘match’ of both to broader, unarticulated cultural models of health and illness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)415-438
Number of pages24
JournalTranscultural Psychiatry
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2008


  • conceptual models
  • cultural differences
  • health seeking
  • illness representation
  • treatment seeking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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