Journal of General Internal Medicine

, Volume 18, Issue 7, pp 508–515

Identifying older Chinese immigrants at high risk for osteoporosis


    • Department of Health StudiesUniversity of Chicago
    • Population Research Center and Center on AgingUniversity of Chicago
  • Victoria Kuohung
    • Chinese American Service League
  • Suey-Lee Chang
    • Chinese American Service League
  • Marshall H. Chin
    • Population Research Center and Center on AgingUniversity of Chicago
    • Department of MedicineUniversity of Chicago
Original Articles

DOI: 10.1046/j.1525-1497.2003.20331.x

Cite this article as:
Lauderdale, D.S., Kuohung, V., Chang, S. et al. J GEN INTERN MED (2003) 18: 508. doi:10.1046/j.1525-1497.2003.20331.x


BACKGROUND: Data about whether Asian Americans are a high-risk or a low-risk group for osteoporosis are limited and inconsistent. Few previous studies have recognized that the heterogeneity of the Asian American population, with respect to both nativity (foreign- vs U.S.-born) and ethnicity, may be related to osteoporosis risk.

OBJECTIVE: To assess whether older foreign-born Chinese Americans living in an urban ethnic enclave are at high risk of osteoporosis and to refer participants at high risk for follow-up care.

DESIGN: Cross-sectional survey and osteoporosis screening, undertaken as a collaborative project by the Chinese American Service League and researchers at the University of Chicago.

SETTING: Chicago’s Chinatown.

PARTICIPANTS: Four hundred sixty-nine immigrant Chinese American men and women aged 50 and older.

MEASUREMENTS AND MAIN RESULTS: Chinese Americans in this urban setting are generally recent immigrants from south China with limited education and resources: mean age at immigration was 54, 56% had primary only or no education, and 57% reported “fair” or “poor” self-rated health. Eighteen percent are uninsured and 55% receive Medicaid. Bone mineral density (BMD) of the calcaneus was estimated using quantitative ultrasound. Immigrant Chinese women in the study had lower average BMD than reference data for white women or U.S.-born Asian Americans. BMD for immigrant Chinese men in the study was similar to white men at ages 50 to 69, and lower at older ages. Low body mass index, low educational attainment and older age at immigration were all associated with lower BMD.

CONCLUSIONS: Foreign-born Chinese Americans may be a high-risk group for osteoporosis.

Key Words

bone densityAsian AmericansChinese Americansosteoporosisemigration and immigration
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© Society of General Internal Medicine 2003