Report suggests JA seniors likely to live longer than other Americans

LOS ANGELES — Nearly one in four “Japanese Americans are 65 and older — nearly twice the proportion of seniors in the overall U.S. population,” a new study by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research funded by Keiro Senior HealthCare says, citing 2010 Census data.

The study found that Japanese Americans are “likelier to live longer than other Americans and are healthier when they age,” a statement issued by both entities said.

“Using California Health Interview Survey data from 2003 to 2012, the study found that elderly Japanese Americans had lower risks for nine of 15 health indicators than other Asian and other racial and ethnic groups in California. Older Japanese Americans, however, did have higher rates of arthritis and hypertension than seniors in other racial and ethnic groups,” the statement said.

The report examines three categories of people of Japanese descent in California: Those who identify as being “only” of Japanese descent; those who identify as being mixed-race; and those who identified as being of Japanese descent “in some way.”

Among the findings of mixed-race Japanese Americans:

• One in five eat fast food four or more times a week, compared to one in 10 Japanese Americans-only.

• About eight percent have hypertension — significantly lower than the figure among the Japanese American-only cohort (22 percent). The study’s authors say the disparity may be a result of the multiracial group being younger overall.

Japanese American-only “residents, in large part the older generation, have some health behaviors and health outcomes that outshine their racially mixed grandchildren,” the statement said.

“In diet, for instance, the older Japanese population and new immigrants from Japan eat traditional foods — such as fish, miso soup and produce — while the younger, racially mixed generation is more fueled by fast food,” said Ying-Ying Meng, lead author of the study and co-director of the center’s Chronic Disease Program.

About 20 percent of California’s Japanese American population identifies as multiracial, according to CHIS data from 2007 to 2012. Among Japanese Americans ages 18 to 34, about 57 percent identify as multiracial, and only 14 percent identify as Japanese-only.
To address health issues such as binge drinking and hypertension among California’s Japanese Americans, the authors suggest culturally appropriate interventions tailored to subgroups, community-based prevention programs in non–health care settings, and more study of Japanese American health and health behaviors.

“The approaching wave of aging baby boomers will place more demands on families and communities and significantly affect public health, social services and health care systems across the country,” said Dianne Kujubu Belli, chief administrative officer of Keiro Senior HealthCare.

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