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Death risk higher for Chinese-American elders when children don't respect them

By Tauren Dyson
Death risk higher for Chinese-American elders when children don't respect them
Older Chinese-Americans high expectations of respect from their children. But when the children don't meet this standard of respect, their elderly parents face a higher risk of death. File Photo by Photographee.eu/Shutterstock

Aug. 16 (UPI) -- Elderly parents who don't think they're treated properly by their children may be dying sooner than they should be, new findings show.

Older Chinese-Americans have high expectations of respect from their children. But when the children don't meet these standard of respect, their elderly parents face a higher risk of death, according to a study published Wednesday in Aging and Mental Health.

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"Strong intergenerational relationships play a protective role in the health and well-being of the aging population," Mengting Li, a researcher at Rutgers University and study lead author, said in a news release. "Family solidarity is especially vital to the Chinese American immigrant population, who tend to rely more heavily on their families due to traditional filial piety values."

The concept of filial piety requires Chinese elderly people to receive care, respect, gratitude, happiness, obeyance and financial support from their children.

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The study included more than 3,000 Chinese-Americans at an average age of 73 living in Chicago with at least one child. The researchers found that parents who felt their children didn't listen enough or show appropriate gratitude had a higher mortality risk.

Conversely, parents who felt their children exceeded those expectations had a lower risk of death.

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The happiness, obeyance and financial support aspects of filial piety had no impact on their death risk, researchers report.

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To curb this risk, the researchers recommend social service organizations provide more cultural sensitivity when caring for older Chinese-Americans. They also say the children of elderly parents should learn more about and adhere to the traditions of the filial piety.

"Although further qualitative study is necessary to understand the filial discrepancy experience comprehensively and to explore the mechanism through which filial discrepancy affects the mortality risk of older immigrants, the study has important practical implications for social and health care services and policies focused on older Chinese American adults," Li said.

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