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BACKGROUND: Asian Americans represent a mix of cultures and immigration experiences, which may put them differentially at risk for mental health problems. Yet, little is known about the mental health needs of older adults from various Asian subgroups compared to non-Hispanic whites.

OBJECTIVES: To compare the prevalence rates of mental distress of Chinese, Filipino, South Asian, Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese older adults (aged 55 and older) to that of non-Hispanic whites; and to examine subgroup differences in utilization of mental health services.

METHODS: A cross-sectional analysis of a population-based sample of California adults responding to the 2007 California Health Interview Survey. Multivariable logistic regression analysis was used to examine subgroup differences in mental health status and use of mental health services among the six different Asian subgroups and non-Hispanic whites, adjusting for respondents’ demographic and health characteristics, socioeconomic status, and English-language proficiency.

RESULTS: A total of 20,712 respondents were included. Filipino [aOR=2.25; 95% CI=1.14-4.47] and Korean Americans [aOR=2.10; 95% CI=1.06-4.17] were more likely to report symptoms indicative of mental distress compared to non-Hispanic whites, yet were less likely to have seen a primary care provider [Filipino: aOR=0.41; 95% CI=0.18-0.90; Korean: aOR=0.24; 95% CI = 0.08-0.69] or have taken a prescription medication [Filipino: aOR=0.20; 95% CI=0.10-0.40; Korean: aOR=0.15; 95% CI=0.05-0.40], even after adjusting for indicators of respondents’ demographic and health characteristics, socioeconomic status, and English-language proficiency. In contrast, Japanese Americans were less likely to report symptoms indicative of mental distress [aOR=0.43; 95% CI=0.21-0.90], and were less likely to make use of mental health services compared to non-Hispanic whites.

DISCUSSION/CONCLUSIONS: The findings from this study not only highlight the unmet mental health needs among older Asian Americans, but also illustrate significant variations among the various Asian subgroups. Clinicians who work closely with these patients should regularly screen and assess older Asian adults for symptoms related to their mental health needs.”