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  • Writer's pictureDeena Aziz

South Asian Immigrant Women and Depression: Acculturation Stressors

Updated: Jan 26, 2023

South Asians are the largest visible minority in Canada. We are 5.6% of the total population and the fastest growing. Mental health issues are highly stigmatized within South Asian communities and women often suffer in silence.

Acculturative stress occurs as South Asian immigrant women face differences between Canadian culture and their culture. The more marked the difference, the more intense and forceful are the stressors that can lead to depression. South Asian culture is more of a collective culture, is very different in language, traditional gender roles, and intergenerational conflict from individualistic Canadian culture. In addition, two further stressors are isolation and discrimination.


A substantial number of South Asian immigrant women do not speak English (or French) and this stops them from getting a good job as well as post-secondary Canadian education. In addition, to better fit in and learn a new language can trigger feelings of loss of cultural identity, longing for the homeland, and questioning self-competence and self-esteem. All have negative effects and can be contributors to depression.

Traditional Gender Roles

South Asian immigrant women often shoulder much responsibility for the stability of their families while adapting to new ways of being in Canadian culture. What results is really high costs to their own personal freedom when they are at home much of the day, become isolated, let go of their working goals and personal interests. Their role in the family is often the unseen and unnoticed labour and may lead to depression.

Intergenerational Conflict

South Asian immigrant women face warring thoughts, emotions and behaviours when presented with personal freedoms in Canada which they did not have in home countries who put family and community first. This is a difficult choice between, for example, being a nuclear and not joint family which causes family conflict. There may also be conflict between her and her children who, for example, want to date outside of their culture. These conflicts can lead to psychological distress and vulnerability to depressive symptoms.


South Asian immigrant women often leave family and friends behind in their home countries and there is a lack of culturally matched resources here in Canada leading to isolation. In addition, because mental disorders bring shame and are often hidden in South Asian culture, these women stay silent and remain at home, further isolating themselves. Isolation is a major predictor of depression.


Finding a good job and having a career is a key factor in thriving in Canada. South Asian immigrant women are often unemployed or work in low-income factory jobs due to limited language skills, or due to culture. Those who are professionals and have language skills have to retrain, and due to accent and colour, may be treated as less competent and with less respect and given an inferior status. They are under-valued which affects self-esteem, may lead to a sense of powerlessness, loss of social pride, and this is often tied to depression.

Get Help

Know that you are not alone. One in eight Canadians suffer from depression some time in their lives, and three times as many South Asian immigrant women suffer from depression than do South Asian immigrant men.

We are here to help. Addressing your depression may appear daunting but through a culturally supported, warm and respectful alliance, you can begin to better cope with the signs and symptoms, and begin to heal and feel more peaceful.

Deena Aziz, MA, CCC, RP


I am a South Asian Canadian and have lived both in Canada and South Asia for many years. As such, I have been immersed in both Eastern and Western cultures.

I have provided therapy services to clients from all over South Asia as well as Indo-Caribbean and Indo-African. A commonality is our heritage leading to similar values, beliefs, and attitudes. In addition, maintaining those values, beliefs, and attitudes while navigating the wider Canadian culture can cause cognitive dissonance or warring thoughts, emotions, and behaviors.

My role as a therapist, is to explore and guide you through the journey to a place of peace and wellbeing. I come from a place of genuineness, warmth, positive regard, empathy and respect. My hope in my work with clients is collaboration, as you are the expert in your own lives - my role is in the guidance and coaching. My therapy orientations are cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), solution focused therapy (SFT), reality therapy (RT), and borrow tools and techniques from others such as acceptance commitment therapy (ACT), and Adlerian. These are evidence-based, solution-focused, and brief therapies.

On a personal note, I view psychotherapy not as a job or career but as a vocation; the fulfillment of a twenty-year-old dream. I have traveled since childhood as my father was a diplomat and continue to do so. I enjoy reading, music, and am a movie buff (both Bollywood and Hollywood). I also enjoy the theater, watching tennis matches, soccer, ice dancing and gymnastics.

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