An overall myth that Asians are economically prosperous and healthy and enjoy active social and family relationships is preventing the collection of quality health data that would improve their lives, according to a Rutgers study
The research published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society(JAGS) – provides a comprehensive, multigenerational insight into the lives of Chinese Americans and the cultural factors that need to be addressed to improve health-related condition like hypertension, depression and cognitive decline.
“Despite the size and substantial growth of the Chinese American community, quality health data on this vulnerable population remains critically inadequate,” said XinQi Dong, director of Rutgers Institute for Health, Health Care Policy and Aging Research and the lead researcher of the PINE and PIETY studies. “This research helps provide the context and understanding necessary to improve the health of Asian populations through education, research, advocacy, policy, and sustainable community engagement and promote greater health equity among all minority groups.”
The Rutgers study reviewed 17 new research papers from the Population Study of Chinese Elderly in Chicago (PINE), the most extensive epidemiological cohort study of Chinese older adults in the United States, which has revealed critical health disparities among the growing Chinese American population. Researchers also reviewed data from the Filial Piety Study that look at the adult children of participants
They looked at more than 3,000 Chinese Americans age 60 and older to better understand their current experiences, offer solutions for improving the research participation of minority older adults, and reduce health disparities.
Researchers also assessed the health and well-being of 548 PINE Study participants’ adult children aged 21 and older. The study revealed widespread psychological and social stressors associated with the growing problems of caregiving distress and burden and intergenerational conflict among the Chinese American adult community.
Many of the challenges in studying this vulnerable population, researchers say, includes elder abuse, cognitive function, psychological well-being, social relationships, and health behaviors — navigate the many challenges studying this vulnerable population and address the insufficiency of health and wellness data, researchers insist.
They found that physical, sexual and elder abuse was prevalent with 11.4% reporting child abuse, 6.5% reporting intimate partner violence and 15.2% reporting elder abuse. More than 40% of Asian Americans reported not receiving annual oral health examinations, which is associated with a decreased quality of life, depression, hypertension, poor cognition and cognitive decline.
In addition, more than 50% of older Chinese American adults experience functional disability and depression and more than 84% suffered from more than one chronic health conditions.
“While preliminary research indicates marked disparities concerning Chinese Americans’ health and well-being, numerous factors prevent quality research from being conducted and disseminated,” said Dong. Barriers to research include a reluctance by Chinese Americans to participate in federally sponsored activities, linguistic and cultural barriers, a lack of federal funding, and the tendency of federal-level health researchers to aggregate data of diverse Asian groups under the same racial category.
Since the growth rate is almost four times higher than that of the overall U.S. older adult population, it is imperative to have a thorough understanding of older Chinese Americans’ health needs, Dong said.
“This research will help promote healthy aging adequately, prevent health disparities, and inform the development of culturally sensitive healthcare” he said.