Association of Self-Reported Discrimination and Suicide Ideation in Older Chinese Americans

Lydia W. Li, Gilbert C. Gee, Xinqi Dong

Publication Date: 01/01/2018

Objective This study examines racial discrimination as a potential novel risk factor for suicide ideation among older Chinese Americans. Design In a cross-sectional analysis, this study drew on data collected in the Population-based Study of Chinese Elderly in Chicago on Chinese older adults age 60 + in the Greater Chicago area (N = 3,157). Thirty-day suicide ideation was a dichotomous variable, derived from items of the Physical Health Questionnaire and the Geriatric Mental State Examination-Version A. Self-reported discrimination was dichotomously coded, based on the Experiences of Discrimination instrument, which asks respondents whether they have ever experienced discrimination in nine situations because of their race/ethnicity/color. Results About 4.1% of the sample reported 30-day suicide ideation and 21.5% reported discrimination. Self-reported discrimination was significantly associated with suicide ideation before and after adjusting for covariates including sociodemographic characteristics; neuroticism; social relationships; and physical, cognitive and mental health. In the fully adjusted model, those who reported discrimination had 1.9 times higher odds (OR: 1.9; 95% CI: 1.18–3.08; Wald χ2 = 6.9, df = 1, p = 0.01) of suicide ideation than those who did not. Conclusion Chinese American seniors who reported discrimination had an almost twofold greater odds of 30-day suicide ideation compared with those who did not. Clinicians need to recognize the impact of discrimination on ethnic minority elders. For those who report experiencing discrimination, assessment of suicide risk may be necessary. Efforts to promote civil rights and reduce discrimination may also be a form of primary prevention of suicide.