Approximately 95 percent of Korean immigrant elders are foreign born. Many Korean immigrant elders have experienced acculturation and socioeconomic stresses. Some studies have identified acculturation and socioeconomic factors influencing the psychological well-being (depression or depressive symptoms) of the Asian, Korean, and Hispanic immigrant elders (Mui & Kang, 2006; Min, Moon, Lubben, 2005). However, little is known about significant predictors influencing the health status (including physical functioning, social functioning, role limitations due to physical health problems or due to emotional problems, general mental health, vitality, bodily pain, and general health perceptions) of low-income Korean immigrant elders. Thus, the purpose of this study was to explore significant predictors influencing the health status of low-income Korean immigrant elders.
This cross-sectional survey used a purposive sampling method to recruit 206 Korean immigrant elders 65 years old or older living in California. In 2008, face-to-face interviews lasting 40 to 50 minutes were conducted in Korean. To measure the dependent variable (health status), this study used the Short Form 36 health survey questionnaire (Jenkinson, Coulter, & Wright, 1993). In terms of main independent variables, this study included losing spouse, losing a child, lack of transportation, lack of English proficiency, length of residency in the USA, social support, and spirituality. Respondents ranged in age from 65 to 96, with a mean of 76.3 years; more than 71 percent were female. Approximately 75 percent of the respondents made less than $10,000 annually. In addition, 65 percent of the respondents had very poor or poor English speaking ability.
Hierarchical regression results showed that lack of English proficiency is significantly associated with lower physical functioning (B=-.158, p≤ .05), lower social functioning (B=-.296, p ≤ .001), higher role limitation due to physical health problems (B=.319, p ≤ .001), and general health perception (B=-.350, p ≤ .001). Lack of transportation is significantly related to lower physical functioning (B=-.204, p≤ .05), lower social functioning (B=-.189, p ≤ .05), and higher role limitation due to physical health problems (B=.250, p ≤ .01). Social support is significantly related to higher social functioning (B=.249, p ≤ .001), higher general mental health (B=.279, p ≤ .001), and higher vitality (B=.150, p ≤ .05). Private religious practice is significantly associated with higher vitality (B=.192, p ≤ .05).
Conclusions and Implications:
Many Korean immigrant elders do not have adequate English ability and transportation, which severely inhibits the life of older adults. Community service programs need to provide special educational services for older adult immigrants to learn English and language translation services to use taxi or vans for disabled older adults or people who do not speak English. This study suggests that social network programs be developed to secure these types of supportive relationships. These programs should be focused on consolidating both informal networks, such as family and friends, and formal support systems, such as community service. In addition, the findings show the importance of collaboration between faith-based organizations and the health care system to assist older adults who have psychological and physical health problems.