Depression Illness Representations Among Arabs in Israel: a Qualitative Study Comparing Younger and Older Adults

Fareeda Abo-Rass, Shiri Shinan-Altman, Perla Werner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


There has been a noticeable increase in the number of studies assessing perceptions regarding depression (illness representations) among people diagnosed with the disorder. However, these studies have examined mainly younger adults (ages 18 to 65), and very little is known about older adults. This study examined illness representations among younger and older Israeli Arabs with depression based on the Self-Regulation Model (SRM). A total of 12 Israeli Arabs (six younger adults aged 18–64 and six older adults aged 65+) diagnosed with depression took part in semi-structured, in-depth interviews. The majority of the participants in the younger group were female and married, compared to the older group which has a gender equal ratio, half of which are married. The data were analyzed thematically, guided by the SRM illness representations’ dimensions (identity; timeline; cause; consequences; control/cure; cyclical and coherence; and emotional representations). Differences between younger and older adults were found in some of the illness representations. Older adults described depression as a chronic illness associated with somatic symptoms, and did not believe in psychological treatment. Younger adults did not perceive depression as chronic, reported cognitive and emotional symptoms, and believed in the efficacy of psychological treatment. Our findings indicated that participants’ perceptions about depression appeared to be associated with their age, along with their unique cultural background as they are traditional but undergoing processes of modernization. This study stress the importance of illness representations in intervention programs tailored for different age groups, and considering their specific cultural needs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)353-366
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Cross-Cultural Gerontology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020, Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature.


  • Arab
  • Depression
  • Illness representations
  • Minorities
  • Younger and older adults

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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