Health Vulnerability of Immigrants with Limited English Proficiency: A Study of Older Korean Americans

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To examine the extent to which limited English proficiency (LEP) poses a risk to physical and mental health, using older Korean Americans as a target population.


Cross-sectional survey.


Older Korean Americans (N = 1,301).


Health outcomes were indexed using binary variables covering activity limitation, self-rated health, and probable depression. Participants who reported that they spoke English less than very well were categorized as manifesting LEP.


Approximately 71% of the sample had LEP. Those with LEP scored lower on all measures of health than their English-proficient counterparts. In multivariate models, the risk of having activity limitations was 2.72 times as great (95% confidence interval (CI) = 1.72–4.29, P < .001), a fair or poor rating of health 2.59 times as great (95% CI = 1.91–3.49, P < .001), and probable depression 1.73 times as great (95% CI = 1.29–2.31, P < .001) in participants with LEP.


Limited English proficiency was identified as a critical source of health vulnerability. Systematic efforts should be made to reach out to older immigrants with LEP and include them in health-related research and prevention and intervention programs.

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