5 Examples of Acculturation Stress

Updated December 2, 2022 · 2 Min Read

Explore this resource by Best Counseling Degrees to learn all about acculturation stress.

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Acculturation Stress Examples

  • Performance Difficulties
  • Mental Health Challenges
  • Physical Health Challenges
  • Homelessness
  • Reverse Culture Shock

Acculturation stress refers to the mental and emotional challenges of adapting to a new culture. Sometimes this stress is significant, such as when an individual is forced to relocate to a country whose home language is foreign, due to socioeconomic or safety concerns. It can also occur in situations as simple as starting a new school or job. Depending on situation and level of severity, it presents in the form of the five examples detailed in this article.

1. Performance Difficulties

Individuals new to any culture have much more to think about than native members of that culture. Adults who relocate to a new country often have difficulties starting and maintaining successful careers. This can be due to lack of transferable credentials, language barriers, lack of childcare resources, lack of social support, or a combination of these factors. Children and adolescents have similar struggles with academic achievement for the same reasons.

Relocating to a new city or starting at a new job or school can have a similar impact, although usually more mild. Each workplace and school has unique sub-cultural dynamics and methods of operation. Learning new skills and systems (academic, professional, and social) is inherently difficult, especially when people do not feel connected enough to others in the culture to ask for help.

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2. Mental Health Challenges

Being new to a culture frequently results in loneliness, depression, and anxiety. Experiencing these emotions often creates a downward cycle, as depression and anxiety make it even more difficult to connect with others. The mental and emotional side of this phenomenon is commonly referred to as culture shock, as described in Psychology Today.

3. Physical Health Challenges

Acculturation stress often manifests itself in physical illnesses. One reason for this is because the mental health challenges discussed above are highly correlated with physical illnesses. Anxiety and depression lead to overactive or underactive cardiovascular activity, decreased immunity, and lack of self-care.

Another cause of physical illness is lack of access to healthcare services. Even moving to a new city requires establishing new healthcare providers, which is often a long struggle due to insurance policies. Change in employment often disrupts health insurances, as does moves to new counties, cities, and states. Moving to a new country further compounds these difficulties due to language barriers and lack of knowledge about locations and policies regarding foreign healthcare systems.

4. Homelessness

In the most severe cases, one source of stress is homelessness. Many relocate with very little warning or time for preparation. Most housing options require proof of employment, but not all individuals have the employment opportunities waiting for them in their new cultures. Difficulty finding and maintaining employment translates to difficulty finding and maintaining housing. Individuals struggling with language barriers may not even be able to locate shelters.

5. Reverse Culture Shock

Transitioning into a new culture either requires transitioning out of an old culture or attempting to balance multiple cultures. Either scenario leads to confusion. Building familiarity with a new culture takes time and energy away from connections with previous cultures. This makes it difficult to transition back to home cultures, such as when members of military return from combat. Reverse culture shock carries all of the same psychological symptoms as culture shock.

Entering a new culture is often a difficult and forced experience. Even when it is a positive and chosen situation, it involves many changes. Knowing these five examples of acculturation stress can help you understand how to reach out to people who may be experiencing it.

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