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Self‐Reported Health Status of Vietnamese and Non‐Hispanic White Older Adults in California


Vietnamese Americans are a rapidly growing minority group in the United States, yet little is known about their health status. Chronic medical conditions and self-rated health of older Vietnamese Americans were compared with those of non-Hispanic white adults living in California using the 2001 and 2003 California Health Interview Surveys (CHISs). The CHIS employed a random-digit-dial telephone survey, and its sample is representative of California's noninstitutionalized population. The sample included 359 Vietnamese and 25,177 non-Hispanic white adults aged 55 and older. Vietnamese and non-Hispanic white adults were compared in terms of limitations in activities of daily living, chronic medical conditions (diabetes mellitus, hypertension, heart disease, asthma), mental health care, and self-reported health, adjusting for age, sex, and education. Vietnamese were more likely than white participants to report needing help for mental health problems (adjusted odds ratio (aOR)=2.1, 95% confidence interval (CI)=1.4-3.1) but less likely to have had their medical providers discuss their mental health problems with them (aOR=0.3, 95% CI=0.1-0.5). In addition, Vietnamese participants reported significantly worse health than white adults on five of eight domains of the Medical Outcomes Survery 12-item Short Form survey (P<.006). Clinicians caring for older Vietnamese individuals should be aware of the high risk for mental health needs in this population and should initiate discussions about mental health with their patients. Further research is needed to better understand why older Vietnamese Americans are at higher risk for worse self-reported health than older white adults.

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