Summary: The use of physicians is more common than of behavioral specialists, especially in underserved Asian American communities. Despite a rapidly aging Asian American population, research has overlooked older people. This study examines the way mental health need affects the number of physician contacts by older Asian Americans.
This study uses data on self-identified Asian Americans over the age of 50 derived from the 2001 California Health Interview Survey. A total of 1,191 Asian Americans from Chinese, Filipino, Korean, and Vietnamese backgrounds were studied. Replicate weights were applied to account for the survey’s complex sampling methods. Linear regression was used to identify the number of physician contacts.
Findings: Overall, respondents had seen a doctor an average of 5 times in the previous 12 months; 7% perceived that they had a mental health need. Perceiving a mental health need was associated with a decreased number of physician contacts for Filipino and Korean Americans.
This study revealed interethnic differences among older Asian Americans’ contact with physicians. As older Filipino and Korean Americans who perceive a mental health need have fewer contacts with their physician, correctly identifying mental health needs in the health care system for these groups is crucial. Health and mental health professionals can work toward reducing mental health disparities by accounting for older Asian Americans’ help-seeking patterns when designing evidence-based interventions.
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