Discrimination leads older Chinese-Americans to consider suicide at high rates

August 31, 2017

Elderly Chinese-Americans feel helpless when faced with racial biases and become twice as likely to consider suicide than those who don't encounter similar discrimination, according to a new University of Michigan study.

U-M researchers examined how racial contributed to Chicago-area Chinese-American adults age 60 and older thinking about taking their lives during a 30-day period.

Discrimination can impair a person's physical and mental well-being, and can be challenging for the elderly, said Lydia Li, U-M associate professor of social work and the study's lead author. The Chinese-American population is rising and aging quickly, but little research has examined this population, especially as it relates to .

Li and colleagues used data from 3,157 Chinese seniors who immigrated to the United States an average of 20 years before completing the survey. Their average age was 72, and 57 percent of them were women.

In addition to obtaining background information on the participants, such as age, education and marital status, the questionnaire asked about . Participants also provided specific experiences of discrimination.

About 4 percent considered suicide in past 30 days and roughly 21 percent reported experiencing discrimination in public places, at work and in other situations. Those who reported discrimination were nearly twice as likely to think about suicide than those who didn't harbor similar thoughts.

"Among older Chinese-Americans, discrimination encounters may not only invoke a sense of alienation and helplessness," Li said. "Assimilation difficulty, cultural beliefs and family pride may preclude them from seeking help. Consequently they may come to see suicide as a viable alternative."

The researchers also found that age, loneliness, pain and depression are significant risk factors for this group, but family support can be a positive protective factor to lessen the risk of suicidal thoughts.

Li said help can also come from clinicians, who must also recognize the impact of discrimination on ethnic minority elders.

"Efforts to promote civil rights and reduce discrimination may also be a form of primary prevention of ," she said.

Li collaborated on the research with Gilbert Gee of UCLA and XinQi Dong of the Rush University Medical Center.

The study appears in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry. Li presented the findings last month at the World Congress of Gerontology and Geriatrics in San Francisco.

Explore further: Older adults may need better follow-up after ER screenings for suicide

More information: Lydia W. Li et al. Association of Self-Reported Discrimination and Suicide Ideation in Older Chinese Americans, The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry (2017). DOI: 10.1016/j.jagp.2017.08.006

Related Stories

Older adults may need better follow-up after ER screenings for suicide

August 9, 2017
According to the World Health Organization, suicide rates for men over the age of 70 are higher than in any other group of people. In 2015, almost 8,000 older adults committed suicide in the U.S., and the proportion of suicides ...

Study finds link between discrimination and suicide attempts among transgender people

January 29, 2014
(Medical Xpress)—An analysis conducted by UCLA's Jody Herman and collaborators at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention has found that transgender people who experienced rejection by family and friends, discrimination, ...

Study finds exposure to racism harms children's health

May 4, 2017
New research to be presented at the 2017 Pediatric Academic Societies 2017 Meeting illustrates the unhealthy effects racism can have on children, with reported exposure to discrimination tied to higher rates of Attention ...

Research connects discrimination, thoughts of death among African-Americans

June 25, 2016
Racial discrimination, whether it's derogatory language or unequal treatment, impacts communities and individuals in different ways. For children, the effects are sometimes emotional scars, and as a University of Houston ...

Perceived age and weight discrimination worse for health than perceived racism and sexism

May 7, 2014
Perceived age and weight discrimination, more than perceived race and sex discrimination, are linked to worse health in older adults, according to new research from the Florida State University College of Medicine.

Recommended for you

Babies can learn that hard work pays off

September 21, 2017
If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. A new study from MIT reveals that babies as young as 15 months can learn to follow this advice. The researchers found that babies who watched an adult struggle at two different ...

Study links brain inflammation to suicidal thinking in depression

September 21, 2017
Patients with major depressive disorder (MDD) have increased brain levels of a marker of microglial activation, a sign of inflammation, according to a new study in Biological Psychiatry by researchers at the University of ...

Oxytocin turns up the volume of your social environment

September 20, 2017
Before you shop for the "cuddle" hormone oxytocin to relieve stress and enhance your social life, read this: a new study from the University of California, Davis, suggests that sometimes, blocking the action of oxytocin in ...

Researchers develop new tool to assess individual's level of wisdom

September 20, 2017
Researchers at University of San Diego School of Medicine have developed a new tool called the San Diego Wisdom Scale (SD-WISE) to assess an individual's level of wisdom, based upon a conceptualization of wisdom as a trait ...

Alcohol use affects levels of cholesterol regulator through epigenetics

September 20, 2017
In an analysis of the epigenomes of people and mice, researchers at Johns Hopkins Medicine and the National Institutes of Health report that drinking alcohol may induce changes to a cholesterol-regulating gene.

Self-control may not diminish throughout the day

September 20, 2017
After a long day of work and carefully watching what you eat, you might expect your self-control to slip a little by kicking back and cracking open a bag of potato chips.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.