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Addressing the Unique Health Challenges of Asian American Seniors

Published on May 23, 2023  |  By: RubiconMD

Asian Americans are one of the most understudied racial or ethnic minority groups in the U.S.¹ The lack of information on Asian American health exemplifies yet another deficiency in our healthcare system. Aside from surveys and subgroup research, there is very limited information. However, what we do know about Asian Americans is that they are under supported in our current healthcare system, especially as they age 65+.

We aim to shed light on some challenges facing Asian American senior patients and explore how primary care can better support them. Some of the presented challenges are:

Language and Cultural Barriers

Asian American senior patients often encounter language and cultural barriers that hinder their access to quality healthcare. There is a cultural stigma associated with asking for help or admitting an issue, so many live with the burden instead.² Moreover, elderly Asian Americans frequently experience discomfort and embarrassment when attempting to communicate their needs due to English being their second language. They may also struggle to effectively articulate their health concerns, particularly within the unfamiliar context of a Western healthcare system.³

Rising Mental Health Issues

Mental health is perceived as an excuse or a sign of weakness among Asian American elders, leading to their reluctance in seeking help or treatment, as they do not consider it a genuine health concern. A recent survey revealed that only 54% of Asian American elders reported being satisfied with their lives, in contrast to 80% of respondents from different racial and ethnic backgrounds.⁴ This disparity can be attributed to various factors such as immigration-related distress, socioeconomic status, and racism, among others. Disturbingly, the data highlights the severity of this issue, indicating that older Asian American women who are primary care patients with mental disorders like depression, anxiety, and at-risk alcohol use problems have the highest rate of suicidal thoughts at 57%, surpassing other demographic groups.⁵

Health Disparities: Chronic Diseases

Sadly, Asian American seniors face not only a mental health crisis but also an increased burden of chronic diseases, such as cancer, diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular conditions. Various factors contribute to this disproportionate impact, including genetic predisposition and social determinants of health. For instance, studies have shown that Asian Americans have a higher risk of developing certain types of cancer, including liver, stomach, and nasopharyngeal cancers. Furthermore, hypertension and cardiovascular conditions are prevalent in this population, influenced by lifestyle factors, cultural dietary patterns, and limited access to healthcare services.⁶ 

A path forward with virtual specialty care

It is crucial to address healthcare disparities and provide culturally competent care to promote the well-being of Asian American seniors. Healthcare is a racial and socioeconomic issue that demands a more accessible, equitable path forward to deliver comprehensive and culturally sensitive care to this patient population. Virtual specialty care can help primary care teams with Asian American senior health challenges.

  • A more tailored patient experience | It is crucial for primary care clinicians to bridge gaps as much as possible and provide culturally sensitive care. With access to a virtual specialty care platform, clinicians can facilitate culturally competent care by collaborating with specialists who understand the unique needs and perspectives of our Asian American senior patients. Virtual specialists can provide supplemental resources on how to communicate with these elderly patients and share their expertise across other like-patients.
  • Improved quality of care | Virtual specialty care enables primary care clinicians to deliver higher quality care plans for their patients in a timely manner, getting patients needed care, despite long wait times. PCPs are then able to offer preventive, targeted interventions, ultimately leading to improved health outcomes and reduced disparities for the aging Asian American population. Learn more about our behavioral health solutions and disease management programs at RubiconMD.
  • Access to 140+ specialties, no matter where you are | Clinicians can unlock specialty access for their patients, eliminating geographical boundaries and expanding possibilities. By connecting with specialists through eConsults, PCPs can ensure that their patients receive the expertise they need without a costly referral or the burden of travel. 

RubiconMD solutions exist to help primary care clinicians to provide personalized, compassionate, and culturally sensitive care to under-represented patients, like Asian American seniors. With your help, we can ensure Asian American elders’ well-being.


  1. GhoshMD, MPH, C. (2010, October 10). Healthy people 2010 and Asian Americans/pacific islanders. Healthy People 2010 and Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders: Defining a Baseline of Information. 
  2. Why Asian Americans Don’t Seek Help for Mental Illness | McLean Hospital. (2023, May 2).
  3. NIMHD Grantee Talks Asian Health Disparity Research | Feature Story. (n.d.).
  4. Asian elders are less happy, get less support than elders of other races, study shows. (2022, March 28). NBC News.
  5. Kim, PhD, G., Y Wang, PhD, S., Park, MA, S., & W Yun, MA, S. (2020). Mental Health of Asian American Older Adults: Contemporary Issues and Future Directions. Oxford Academic, 4.
  6. NIMHD Grantee Talks Asian Health Disparity Research | Feature Story. (n.d.).

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