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Older Chinese immigrants face higher depression risk

Older Chinese Australians are at greater risk of depression than other older people, recent research has found.

The study from the National Ageing Research Institute (NARI), conducted with funding from beyondblue, found that 1 in 5 older Chinese immigrants had clinically significant symptoms of depression and 1 in 10 exhibited clinically significant symptoms of anxiety.

Dr Xiaoping Lin, a researcher with NARI’s health promotion division, said Chinese immigrants perceive mental health differently to Western communities and may relate any issue to personality rather than to a health problem.

“We also found there is a very strong stigma towards mental health issues among the community,” she said.

She added that these perceptions have important implications for researchers and for health professionals. “When [health professionals] work with these groups, they need to be aware of these different perceptions and because of the sensitivity of this issue, they probably need to take a bit of a different approach when they want to discuss these issues with their clients,” she explained.

She said contributing factors could be associated with the immigration experience and a limited knowledge of anxiety and depression among Chinese immigrants. “There is still a long way to go towards understanding how these factors are associated with depression and anxiety among this group, and particularly why Mandarin-speaking people are at a higher risk.”

The research has resulted in a suite of culturally appropriate screening tools to help health professionals detect anxiety and depression better in older Chinese people. These tools include a guide defining depression and anxiety, risk factors, common screening methods and what to do if a person’s results show them to be anxious or depressed.

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