Is Migration at Older Age Associated with Poorer Psychological Well-Being? Evidence from Chinese Older Immigrants in the United States

Man Guo, Meredith Stensland, Mengting Li, Xinqi Dong, Agnes Tiwari

Publish Year : 2019

Background and Objectives The migrating age of an individual has far-reaching implications for their acculturation experience, social integration, and well-being. This study addressed two questions: Is migrating at older age associated with poorer psychological well-being? If so, what factors account for such differences? Research Design and Methods Using data of 3,138 Chinese elderly people in Chicago, we compared the levels of depression and quality of life among individuals who migrated in young adulthood (before 35), adulthood (35-49), midlife (50-64), and later life (65+). Negative binominal and logistic regressions were performed to examine the associations between age at migration and the two outcomes, controlling for demographics and four sets of explanatory variables (socioeconomic status, health status, acculturation level, and family/social relations). Results The findings revealed mixed results. Migrating in later life was associated with more depressive symptoms, but also a higher chance of reporting good quality of life. Late-life immigrants’ greater depression was partially contributed to their low income, lack of access to health care, poor physical health, and weak social relations. In contrast, regardless of the explanatory variables, migrating at middle age was associated with lower quality of life. Discussion and Implications Acknowledging that the older immigrant population is segmented with unique susceptibilities improves understanding of heterogeneity among the older immigrant populations and allows for targeted intervention. Gerontological practitioners should include migration history during their intakes and more actively screen for depression with socially isolated Chinese older immigrants who migrated at a later age.