Depressive symptoms and health problems among Chinese immigrant elders in the US and Chinese elders in China

Bei Wu, Iris Chi, Brenda L. Plassman, Man Guo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: Researchers speculate that depression tends to be more prevalent among immigrant elders due to their lack of resources, acculturation stress, language problems, and social isolation. However, other characteristics of elderly immigrants, such as the healthy immigrant effect, may counteract these potential risk factors. This study examined whether depressive symptoms differed between Chinese immigrant elders and their counterparts in China and whether health conditions were similarly associated with depressive symptoms in these two samples. Methods: Depression and health information was collected from 177 Chinese immigrant elders in Boston, the US in 2000 and from 428 education and gender-matched elders in Shanghai, China in 2003. Results: Chinese immigrants had a significantly lower score on the modified Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CES-D) and its subscales: somatic symptoms and depressive affect. The association remained for the subscale depressive affect in multivariate analyses. Arthritis and back or neck problems were associated with a higher level of depressive symptoms among Chinese immigrants, while problems in walking were associated with depression among their counterparts in China. Pain was an underlying contributor to the association between depression and these health problems in both the groups. Conclusions: This study suggests that Chinese immigrant elders might be more resilient than their counterparts despite many challenges they face after moving abroad. With the growing number of older Chinese immigrants in the US, a better understanding of depressive symptoms is essential to provide culturally competent services to better serve this population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)695-704
Number of pages10
JournalAging and Mental Health
Issue number6
StatePublished - Aug 2010


  • cross-national/international studies
  • cultural aspects
  • depression

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Phychiatric Mental Health
  • Gerontology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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