Other Health Risks


Alcohol Abuse


Looking at data on cancer incidence in Asian Americans in California, Koreans in California had the highest proportion of reported alcohol consumption in both men and women compared with other Asian groups. (McCracken et. Al., 2007).


A study looking at potential risk factors for illness explored the drinking behavior of 280 adult Korean Americans in Los Angeles, 12.5% of whom were over age 60 (Lubben, Chi, & Kitano, 1989). The older Koreans were more likely to describe themselves as abstainers than those aged 45 and under; only 20% of those 61+ reported drinking alcohol at all. Heavy drinkers in the study were more apt to be male, and to go to bars or nightclubs.


Adjustment Problems

Fifty Korean immigrants in the San Francisco Bay Area age 60 and over were interviewed in 1981 to identify typical adjustment problems. Ratings of stress and adaptation in five areas of functioning (social, cultural, economic, health, and emotional/ cognitive) found that those in greatest risk of difficulty were those with little education, had arrived in the U.S. recently, and lived alone (Kiefer et al., 1985).


Diabetes Mellitus Type II

In a San Jose, California study of 50 senior center participants and senior apartment dwellers aged 65 to 82, all of whom were born in Korea, 36% reported a history of diabetes, which is approximately four times the rate of older Americans (Lee, Yeo, & Gallagher-Thompson, 1993).


Hepatitis B Virus

Korean American elders are known to be at a particular risk for mental distress (Hughes, 2002; Hurh & Kim, 1990). Studies using standard depressive symptom inventories (e.g., the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale and the Geriatric Depression Scale) reportedly show that Korean American elders have higher scores than other racial/ethnic groups (e.g., Min, Moon, & Lubben, 2005). Although the high scores may be partly attributed to cultural response patterns to symptom inventories (Jang, Kim, & Chiriboga, 2005), the findings call attention to the heightened needs for mental health services in Korean American communities. However, their utilization rate for mental health service is extremely low (Kim, 1995; Shin, 2002). Studies report that Korean American elders are subject to cultural misconceptions and stigmatism related to mental disorders (e.g., Jang, Kim, Hansen, & Chiriboga, 2007).



In Korea, TB is a public health problem with incidence rates among the highest in Asia. With regards to the older Korean American population, the rate of tuberculosis in Korean American older persons is 12 times greater than among Whites (Kitano & Daniels 1988). Proper screening and prophylaxis is indicated for this population.


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