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Study Examines Older Chinese Migrant Mental Health

Study Examines Mental Health Of Older Chinese Migrants

Findings from the first New Zealand survey of older Chinese migrants were reported today at an international mental health conference held at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Auckland. The research was conducted by AUT’s Professor Max Abbott and members of the AUT Centre for Asian and Migrant Health Research - Dr Sai Wong, Dr Wilson Young, Dr Ming Au, Lynne Giles and Sue Wong.

Speaking at the 3rd Biennial World Conference on Mental Health Promotion and the Prevention of Mental Illness and Behavioural Disorders, Professor Max Abbott said a survey of 162 older Chinese migrants found a quarter had depressive symptoms. While similar to rates for older people generally, he said some sub-groups were at high risk for depression and that more could be done to help these people.

“Given the dislocation involved in shifting to a new society and culture, the remarkable thing is that rates of depressive symptoms appear to be similar to those from studies in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, as well as for older New Zealanders generally,” said Professor Abbott. “We expected the rate to be higher.”

Major risk factors for depression identified in the study included more frequent general practitioner visits, difficulties in accessing health services, cardiovascular disease, poor self-rated health, having an illness in the past year, not driving a car, reliance on public transport, low social support, low New Zealand cultural orientation and difficulties with language and acculturation.

Another risk factor was living in New Zealand for more than a year. None of the 17 participants resident for less than a year were depressed.

Professor Abbott said while it is not always clear which factors are cause and which are effect, the study highlights the connection between physical and mental health and points to a number of measures that could prevent mental health and associated problems. The study also suggests health services need to be more accessible to new migrant groups.

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