Vulnerability of older Latino and Asian immigrants with limited English proficiency

Kim G, Worley CB, Allen RS, Vinson L, Crowther MR, Parmelee P, Chiriboga DA.  Center for Mental Health and Aging, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL 35487, USA.  J Am Geriatr Soc. 2011 Jul;59(7):1246-52. doi: 10.1111/j.1532-5415.2011.03483.x. Epub 2011 Jun 30.

OBJECTIVES: To explore the implications of limited English proficiency (LEP) for disparities in health status and healthcare service use of older Latino and Asian immigrants.

DESIGN: Cross-sectional analysis of existing secondary data.

SETTING: The 2007 California Health Interview Survey.

PARTICIPANTS: Latino and Asian immigrants aged 60 and older (n=1,745) were divided into three language proficiency groups: older adults who have LEP, are proficient in English but also speak another language at home (EP), and speak English only (EO).

MEASUREMENTS: Sociodemographic characteristics, health status, health service use, and barriers to service use were compared.

RESULTS: Older Latino and Asian immigrants with LEP tended to have poorer self-rated health and higher psychological distress than the EP and EO groups. They were also less likely than the EP and EO groups to use health services and more likely to experience barriers to service use (e.g., difficulty understanding written information at the doctor’s office).

CONCLUSION: Older Latinos and Asians with LEP are at higher risk for poor physical and mental health outcomes and inadequate health care. Healthcare systems should consider strategies to address the language needs of older immigrants to reduce the effect of linguistic disparities on access to care and ultimately to improve health status for these vulnerable populations.