Research Spotlight: Dr. Jinbing Bai and Dr. Victoria Pak

Dr. Jinbing Bai, PhD, MSN, RN, FAAN, and Dr. Victoria Pak, PhD, MS, MTR, RN, were recently awarded one of seven global bidirectional grants from Emory University. The purpose of the global bidirectional grants is to improve health outcomes for immigrants in the Atlanta area. We interviewed Dr. Bai and Dr. Pak to find out more about their project studying “Psychosocial determinants, gut microbiome, sleep, and mental health among Chinese and Korean Immigrants in the greater Atlanta area”.

Please describe your research project: Depression and anxiety are prevalent among Asian immigrants in the U.S. Social determinants of health such as one’s level of acculturation and experiencing immigrant-specific racial discrimination are also associated with chronic stress. Higher depression, anxiety, and chronic stress are associated with decreased quality of life. Emerging evidence suggests that the gut microbiota play a critical role in regulating mental health via the microbiome-gut-brain axis, and the gut microbiota can be drastically altered during the immigration process. Sleep disturbance is also associated with depression and anxiety. Funded by the SVP Global Health Disparities Research Grant, this study focuses on the psychosocial and biological contributors to depression, anxiety, and sleep disturbance among Chinese and Korean immigrants in the Greater Atlanta area.


Why are you interested in this topic? Asian immigrants are at high risk for depression and anxiety resulting from the stress they experience during migration and integration. Although mental health and sleep disturbance have been described in Asian immigrants, the impacts that social determinants of health and the gut microbiome have on mental health and sleep are unknown. The metro Atlanta area has a large density of Chinese and Korean immigrants, and this provides a great opportunity to examine the mental health and sleep disturbances, as well as relevant contributing factors, in this population.


How will you measure sleep quality? The Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index is used to measure sleep quality. We have three language versions (English, Chinese, and Korean) of this measure to distribute to eligible participants based on their language preferences.


What impact do you think sleep quality has on depression and anxiety in Asian immigrants? Do you think the psychosocial determinants of health and gut microbiome will play a role in sleep quality?

Emerging evidence suggests a link between the microbiome and sleep disturbance. Asian immigrants are at a higher risk for depression, anxiety, and sleep disturbance, all of which may be altered by the gut microbiome. There are no studies examining these unique associations in this population. We hypothesize that the distinctive psychosocial factors and the gut microbiome are associated with sleep quality in Asian immigrants. This study will be the first to identify psychosocial and biological contributors to depression, anxiety, and sleep disturbances in Asian immigrants.