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It’s Not Your Model Minority: The PINE Study Reveals the Challenges U.S. Chinese Aging Population Facing

Stephanie Bergren
Chinese Health, Aging, and Policy Program
Rush University Medical Center
Stephanie_Bergren@rush.edu
http://chinesehealthyaging.org/

Chicago, IL, Dec 31—In 2017, researchers from Rush University Medical Center completed the third wave of the PINE study, or the Population study of ChINse Elderly in Chicago, a longitudinal data collection of more than 3,000 Chinese older adults in the greater Chicago area. This landmark achievement sheds a light on how cultural determinants, such as health beliefs, habits, and practices, impact the health outcomes and disparities among Chinese older adults.

The PINE study is the largest cohort study ever assembled in Western countries, and has investigated more than 4,000 Chinese older adults aged 60 or above since 2011. The research participants were followed-up every two years to not only understand their health status at a certain time point, but also to see changes over time. Data collection of this population and scale has never been accomplished before and will allow researchers to understand the health needs of this vulnerable population.

U.S. Chinese aging population has experienced a rapid growth over the past decades. However, the research about this population has been either absent or scarce, leading to the lack of understanding that causes a huge health burden and health disparities. Without the knowledge about the cultural and social barriers among Chinese older adults, healthcare professionals and policymakers are not able to provide and follow the best strategies to improve the health and well-being of Chinese older adults.

Key findings from the PINE study:

  • 95% of social network among Chinese older adults was kin-oriented, impacting their preventive care utilization, psychological well-being, and cognitive function.
  • Self-neglect was prevalent in the Chinese community, and was associated with depression and suicidal thoughts.
  • Almost 1 in 10 Chinese older adults had experienced some kinds of elder abuse, including psychological, financial, physical, and sexual abuse, and caregiver neglect.
  • More than half of Chinese older adults reported depressive symptoms.
  • Chinese older adults’ unmet filial expectations for adult children were associated with increased hopelessness, depression, stress, and loneliness.

“People usually think of the U.S. Chinese population as a ‘model minority,’ which hides the physical and psychological health challenges this population faces,” says Dr. XinQi Dong, MD, MPH, the principle investigator of the PINE study. “With this data, we can find out the causes of certain health outcomes and figure out how to prevent disease and improve wellbeing through culturally appropriate interventions.”