Health risks posed by social and linguistic isolation in older Korean Americans

Yuri Jang, Hyunwoo Yoon, Juyoung Park, Nan Sook Park, David A. Chiriboga, Miyong T. Kim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Objectives: Inspired by the notion of double jeopardy positing the dual disadvantage in the coexistence of different sources of vulnerability, the present study examined health risks posed by social and linguistic isolation in older Korean Americans. Design: A cross-sectional study, using a four-cell classification to compare isolation types (no isolation, social isolation only, linguistic isolation only, and dual isolation) and to examine their impacts on physical (self-rated health), mental (mental distress), and cognitive (cognitive performance) health. Setting and Participants: Data are from the Study of Older Korean Americans survey of Korean immigrants aged 60 or older (n = 2032), conducted in five states in the United States (California, New York, Texas, Hawaii, and Florida). Measurement: Social isolation was indexed by the Lubben Social Network Scale-6; linguistic isolation, by a question on English-speaking ability. Physical, mental, and cognitive health were indicated by a single-item self-rating of health, the Kessler Psychological Distress Scale 6, and the Mini-Mental State Examination, respectively. Results: The dual-isolation group exhibited notable sociodemographic and health disadvantages. The odds of having fair/poor health, mental distress, and cognitive impairment were 2.21–3.17 times higher in the dual-isolation group than in the no-isolation group. Conclusion: Our findings confirm that both social relationships and language proficiency are key elements for older immigrants' social connectedness and integration, the deprivation of which puts them at heightened risk in multiple dimensions of health.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3258-3266
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of the American Geriatrics Society
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The American Geriatrics Society.


  • cognition
  • health
  • limited English proficiency
  • mental health
  • older immigrants
  • social isolation


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