Health Service Use Among Chinese American Older Adults: Is There a Somatization Effect?

Lin Jiang, Fei Sun, Wei Zhang, Bei Wu, Xin Qi Dong

Publication Date: 08/12/2019

BACKGROUND/OBJECTIVES: Somatization of depressive symptoms among Chinese American older adults remains understudied. This study aimed to identify whether the relationship between depressive symptoms and use of health services (ie, doctor visits, hospital, and emergency department) could be due to pain and whether acculturation played a role in the relations among depressive symptoms, pain, and health service use.

DESIGN AND PARTICIPANTS: Secondary data came from the Population Study of Chinese Elderly in Chicago that surveyed 3159 Chinese community-dwelling older adults in the greater Chicago area. The average age was 76.3 years (standard deviation = 8.4); 57.95% were female). Negative binominal models were used to identify the effects of depression and pain on each type of health service use, controlling for sociodemographics and health-related factors (eg, chronic illness).

MEASUREMENTS: Depressive symptoms were assessed using the Patient Health Questionnaire-9; pain was assessed by self-reported pain severity. Participants were classified into low, moderate, and high acculturation groups based on acculturation scores.

RESULTS: Depressive symptoms and pain were positively related to health service use on the bivariate level. For groups with both low and high acculturation levels, depression and pain each independently predicted more health service use, whereas for the group with a moderate acculturation level, the effect of somatization was substantialized. CONCLUSION: Depression largely influenced health service use independently and partially through pain for older Chinese Americans. The somatization tended to be only salient for the moderate acculturation group, calling for more research attention to the complicated effect of acculturation. J Am Geriatr Soc 67:S584–S589, 2019.