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Suicidal Ideations Among U.S.-Born Asian-American Women

A new study suggests Asian-American women born in the United States are at particular risk for suicidal behavior.

The finding is noteworthy because Asian-Americans as a group have lower rates of thinking about and attempting suicide than the national average.

The new University of Washington study shows 15.93 percent of U.S.-born Asian-American women have contemplated suicide in their lifetime, exceeding national estimates of 13.5 percent for all Americans.

The finding comes in a study published in the current issue of the journal Archives of Suicide Research. Lifetime estimates of suicide attempts also were higher among U.S-born Asian-American women than the general population, 6.29 percent vs. 4.6 percent.

Data from the study were drawn from the larger National Latino and Asian-American Study and were based on bilingual interviews with almost 2,100 individuals at least 18 years of age. Two-thirds were immigrants from Asia and women made up 53 percent of the respondents. Participants included 600 Chinese, 520 Vietnamese, 508 Filipinos and 467 other Asians, including Japanese, Koreans and Asian Indians.

“It is unclear why Asian-Americans who were born in the United States have higher rates of thinking about and attempting suicide,” said Aileen Duldulao, a UW doctoral student in social work and lead author of the study.

“There is the theory of the ‘healthy immigrant’ that proposes immigrants may be healthier on average than U.S-born Americans, because of the selectivity of migration or the retention of culturally-based behaviors. But it is unclear if this theory is the mechanism at work with regard to our findings.”

Evidence supporting this idea was previously found among Mexican-American and Latino-American immigrants. However, Duldulao said, the health of immigrants tends to decline with the number of years they spend in the U.S. and start adopting behaviors that are less healthy than those found in their homeland.

The suicide data echo a 2006 study that showed Asian immigrants to the U.S. have significantly lower rates of psychiatric disorders than American-born Asians and other native-born Americans. That study’s lead author was David Takeuchi, a UW professor of social work and sociology who is also a co-author of the suicide study.

The new research also found that:

  • The percentage of Asian-Americans who reported thinking about suicide increased the longer they lived in the U.S.
  • Young Asian-Americans, between 18 and 34, had the highest estimates of thinking about (11.9 percent), planning (4.38 percent) and attempting suicide (3.82 percent) of any age group
  • Asian-Americans who were never married reported the highest lifetime estimates of thinking about (17.9 percent), planning (7.6 percent), and attempting (5 percent) suicide.
  • There were few major differences by ethnicity, although Chinese (10.9 percent) and Filipinos (9.76 percent) reported the highest rates of thinking about suicide.

“This study highlights the fact that we may be underserving Asian-American women born in the U.S,” said Duldulao.

“While there was little evidence of sociodemographic differences in suicidal behaviors among various Asian-American groups, there was some anecdotal data from people working in the community. It is important for service providers, as well as policymakers, to know that U.S.-born Asian-Americans, particularly the second generation, are at high risk for mental health problems and suicidal behavior.

“In most cultures suicide is just as unacceptable as it is here. It is pretty much a taboo. That’s why this study is important and why Asian-American communities need to talk more about suicide and mental health,” she said.

The researchers used a modified version of a World Health Organization questionnaire to assess whether and at what age people had suicidal thoughts, made suicide plans or attempted suicide.

Source: University of Washington

Suicidal Ideations Among U.S.-Born Asian-American Women

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2016). Suicidal Ideations Among U.S.-Born Asian-American Women. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 24, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2009/08/18/suicidal-ideations-among-us-born-asian-american-women/7812.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 5 Jul 2016
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 5 Jul 2016
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.