Older Chinese immigrants are at risk for depression due to acculturative stress and language barriers. Residential segregation with respect to language use plays an important role in the mental health of historically marginalized populations. Previous research provided mixed evidence about the segregation effect among older Latino and Asian immigrants. Guided by a model of social processes, we examined the direct and indirect effects of residential segregation on depressive symptoms via multiple mechanisms of acculturation, discrimination, social network, social support, social strain, and social engagement.
Four waves of depressive symptoms were assessed in the Population Study of Chinese Elderly (2011–19, N = 1,970), and linked to the 2010–14 American Community Survey estimates of neighborhood context. Residential segregation was measured by the Index of Concentrations at the Extremes which simultaneously assesses Chinese and English language use within a given census tract. Latent growth curve models with adjusted cluster robust standard errors were estimated after controlling for individual-level factors.
Residents of segregated Chinese-speaking neighborhoods had fewer baseline depressive symptoms but a slower rate of symptom reduction than those living in neighborhoods segregated with English-only speakers. Racial discrimination, social strain, and social engagement partially mediated the association between segregation and baseline depressive symptoms; social strain and social engagement partially mediated the association with long-term reduction in depressive symptoms.
This study demonstrates the importance of residential segregation and social processes in shaping mental well-being among older Chinese immigrants and suggests potential mechanisms to alleviate mental health risks.