Research into the attitudes, perceptions and circumstances of Asian elders with respect to health and old age : a stress and coping perspective
Research into the health needs of Asian elders has been scarce, that which does exist has lacked a theoretical framework. A first attempt is made in the present research study to relate the literature on race and ethnicity to theory and practice in gerontology. A stress and coping model from the gerontological literature was adapted to account for outcomes of physical/psychological health and well-being amongst south Asian elders. In order to test the applicability of this model the first aim of the study was to gain an insight into the circumstances and situations of Asian elders on a range of demographic, support, health and well-being factors. And then-secondly, to see how these factors may interrelate according to the stress and coping model. A range of specific hypotheses were formulated on the basis of this model. Data were collected using semi-structured interviews conducted with a community sample of 70 South Asian elders who were 55 years and over. The interview schedule consisted of both standardised measures of health, stress and coping as well as structured questions on the use of formal/informal support, satisfaction with life and attitudes towards old age. Data were analysed in two phases. The results from the first phase which were largely descriptive, suggest that a significant number of Asian elders were living either alone or with their spouse. In general Asian elders were living in circumstances of material disadvantage, suffering from poor health and chronic illnesses, reporting high levels of psychological distress with little formal and informal support. Awareness and receipt of specialist support services for older adults was low. The results from the second phase involving analyses of correlations and regressions, indicate significant correlations between outcome measures of health/mental health and satisfaction with life with measures of coping, appraisals and to some extent resource variables. There were also significant correlations between positive/negative outcomes of health and well-being with positive/negative ways of coping, appraisal and some resource variables. The factor associated most strongly with outcome variables was social support (resource) rather than coping. Overall, the stress and coping model appears to account well for most of the research findings. The results were discussed in relation to previous research literature and implications for future research and clinical practice were discussed.