Patterns of Depression Among Elderly Asian Immigrants to the United States Over the Past Decade

Immigrants in the United States often face increased stressors associated with the transitions from an established home to a new environment. Factors such as cultural displacement, language barriers, economic and employment concerns, immigration status and safe housing can all contribute to fears that can manifest themselves in depression or anxiety. These risks can be further intensified when the individual is elderly, and their health, socioeconomic status and social support networks within the United States are weakened. This paper will use ten years of the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) to examine change in reported rates of depression or social anxiety among the elderly Asian population. The paper will compare immigrant elders to native born Asian elders and control for duration in the United States, sociodemographic characteristics, and health factors to isolate the impacts of immigration on mental health outcomes. The presence of social support networks, access to care, and level of disability will also be examined as part of the analysis. The paper argues that two factors play into the emotional uncertainty that can result in depression and or social anxiety. We argue that recent immigrants are more vulnerable to mental health challenges compared to US born due to increased levels of social displacement. We also argue that this risk can be attenuated among elderly immigrants by the presence of social support networks measured by contact with family or other individuals with a similar background.

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