Academic journal article Social Work

Acculturation Stress and Depression among Asian Immigrant Elders

Academic journal article Social Work

Acculturation Stress and Depression among Asian Immigrant Elders

Article excerpt

Demographically, the United States faces two dramatic population changes: aging and increasing ethnic and racial diversification. The population segment age 65 and older (35 million) currently and until 2010 will comprise about 12.4 percent of the total U.S. population (Hetzel & Smith, 2001). Between 2010 and 2030, the baby boomers will join this older population. By 2030, about 20 percent of the total U.S. population (69.4 million) is projected to be age 65 and older. The non-Hispanic white share of the total population is projected to fall steadily from 74 percent in 1995 to 53 percent by 2050. At the same time, other racial and ethnic populations will increase in number. The groups with the highest expected rates of increase are Hispanic, Asian, and Pacific Islander Americans. Data from the 2000 census indicate that the Asian American and Asian immigrant elderly population grew by 76 percent from 1990 to 2000 and is projected to grow by 246 percent from 2000 to 2025. This growth is comparable with the 9.2 percent and 73 percent growth rates in the same years among the white elderly population (U.S. Census Bureau, 1990, 2001).

The increasing number of Asian and other immigrants results in greater demands for research methodology sensitive to cross-cultural issues. Although depression is a common psychological problem among elderly populations, few researchers have studied depression in older Asian Americans or elderly Asian immigrants. There is also a dearth of empirical knowledge about within-group differences among the Asian subgroups. Although available national long-term care datasets have been found large enough to conduct analysis of non-Hispanic white and African American elderly populations, Asian American and Asian immigrant elderly groups are rarely included in sufficient numbers to enable meaningful statistical analysis (LaVeist, 1995). Moreover, previous studies on Asian American and Asian immigrant elders used small local samples and did not examine the association between specific acculturation stress and depression of Asian elders from different nationality backgrounds. Within-group variations may reflect differential patterns of acculturation, family dynamics, family values, or expectation in terms of intergenerational exchanges.

The study reported here fills this gap by using an urban area probability sample of six different Asian elderly groups (Chinese, Filipino, Indian, Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese). It examined correlates of depression and group differences in them. The primary predictor of interest was acculturation stress, defined as an acculturation gap between the elderly person and his or her adult children. The specific research question examined was all things being equal, what is the association between acculturation stress and depression among the Asian elders? The importance of this research is founded in the consistent reports that depression is the risk factor most frequently associated with suicide (Bartels et al., 2002; Lapierre, Pronovost, Dube, & Delisle, 1992; Mui, 1996a; 2001).


Prevalence and Incidence Rates

A quarter of all late-life suicides are due to depression (American Association of Retired Persons, 1997). Depression may occur frequently in Asian immigrant elders because they have limited resources in dealing with the multiple losses associated with the process of adaptation, acculturation, and family disruption (Mui, 1996a; 1996b). Epidemiological studies in the United States have examined the prevalence of depressive symptoms in community samples of elders using a variety of self-rating scales and interviews. Depending on the selected cutoff points and instruments, estimates of the prevalence of major depression vary widely. Using DSM-IV-based criteria for major depression, a one-year prevalence rate is estimated at about 5 percent or less among community-dwelling people age 65 and older (Mui, Burnette, & Chen, 2001). …

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