Posted on December 30, 2015

New Report Links Filial Piety, Depression Among Chinese-American Adults

Janine Wolf, NBC News, December 29, 2015

One in two Chinese-American adults experience symptoms of depression and anxiety as a result of caring for elderly parents, according to the results of a new report on filial piety.

The report, released in December by health and aging experts from Rush University Medical Center and Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, examines the caregiving burdens and psychological well-being of Chinese adults within the United States–a subject with only “rudimentary understanding” due to scarce data.

“Filial piety is a Confucius virtue that prescribes adult children are obligated to provide adequate care for their parents, both emotionally and instrumentally,” Dr. XinQi Dong, the study’s lead author, told NBC News. Dong is also the director of the Chinese Health, Aging, and Policy Program at Rush University Medical Center.


While family-oriented values remain important within U.S. Chinese families, researchers say, Chinese adults may experience significant health problems as a result of caregiving stress–about 40 percent of the study’s participants rated their health as fair or poor.


Further research indicates potential caregiver mistreatment may be the root cause of Chinese-American caregivers’ physical and emotional instability. More than half of adult children screened positive for potential caregiver mistreatment, with one third of participants claiming physical mistreatment by their parents prior to turning 18 years old.

One-third of the study’s participants also report living with their parents, but Dong notes caregivers feel a closer connection to their father than mother because adult children perceive their mothers to be more critical of their actions.

“76 percent of participants felt their father really understands them and care about them as opposed to only 18 percent of the mothers,” Dong said. “We can certainly imagine a scenario where adult children may be going to their mother to open up more and, therefore, being criticized more. Perhaps the frequencies of encounters with their father may be less.”