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

August 31, 2017

ANN ARBOR -- 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 discrimination 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 suicidal behavior.

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 suicidal thoughts. 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 suicide," 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.
-end-


University of Michigan

Related Suicide Articles from Brightsurf:

Suicide prevention in COVID-19 era
COVID-19 presents a new and urgent opportunity to focus political will, federal investments, and global community on the vital imperative of suicide prevention.

Racial discrimination linked to suicide
New research findings from the University of Houston indicate that racial discrimination is so painful that it is linked to the ability to die by suicide, a presumed prerequisite for being able to take one's own life, and certain mental health tools - like reframing an incident - can help.

Factors associated with firearm suicide risk
Researchers compared the risk of suicide by firearm based on sociodemographic characteristics of US adults.

Suicide mortality and COVID-19
Reasons why U.S. suicide rates may rise in tandem with the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic are explained in this article that also describes opportunities to expand research and care.

Media reports of celebrity suicide linked to increased suicide rates
Media reporting of suicide, especially celebrity suicides, is associated with increases in suicide in the general population, particularly by the same method as used by the celebrity, finds an analysis of the latest evidence published by The BMJ today.

More youth suicide found in poor communities across US
A study led by Jennifer Hoffmann, M.D., from Ann & Robert H.

BU study finds new factors linked to suicide
A new study led by Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) researchers finds that physical illness and injury raises the risk of suicide in men but not women, along with a plethora of other insights into the complex factors that may increase a person's risk of suicide.

Investigating the full spectrum of suicide
A recent study published in Injury Prevention described a method for categorizing self-injury mortality (SIM) to help us better examine national trends for today's epidemics of suicide and drug-related deaths.

Between 16 and 18% of preadolescents have ideas of suicide
Thinking of taking one's own life (ideation), planning it, threatening to do it or even attempting to do it is regarded as suicidal behaviour.

Social networks and suicide prevention
Depression and mental health problems are increasing - and suicide and drug overdose rates are rising dramatically in the USA.

Read More: Suicide News and Suicide Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.