Social isolation in Asian Americans: risks associated with socio-demographic, health, and immigration factors

Ethn Health. 2022 Aug;27(6):1428-1441. doi: 10.1080/13557858.2021.1881765. Epub 2021 Feb 8.


Objectives: The present study examined the factors associated with social isolation in Asian Americans. Three types of social isolation (social isolation from family, social isolation from friends, and overall social isolation), identified by the Lubben Social Network Scale-6, were examined with a sample of Asian Americans representing diverse ethnic groups (Chinese, Asian Indian, Korean, Vietnamese, Filipino, and other Asians) and a broad age range (18-98).

Design: Using data from the 2015 Asian American Quality of Life Survey (N = 2609), logistic regression models examined how each type of social isolation was predicted by sociodemographic (age, gender, ethnic origin, marital status, education, and perceived financial status), health-related (chronic medical conditions and self-rated health), and immigration-related (proportion of life in the United States and English proficiency) variables.

Results: The percentage of the sample that fell into the category of social isolation from family, social isolation from friends, and overall isolation ranged from 18.2% to 19.3%. At 36% in the friend category and 33% in the overall category, the Vietnamese sample showed a heightened risk of social isolation. Regression analyses indicated that, for both family and friend categories, individuals who were in the middle-aged group (40-59 years old) and who had limited English proficiency demonstrated higher odds of being isolated. Reflecting relational differences in family and friend networks, the risk associated with unmarried status was specific to social isolation from family, whereas having unmet financial needs was only associated with social isolation from friends.

Conclusions: The study findings expand our understanding of the multiple domains of social isolation in an understudied population and emphasize the importance of developing prevention and intervention programs to foster social connectedness among Asian Americans. Our findings on risk factors and ethnic variations help identify the groups to be prioritized in intervention efforts and suggest ways to approach them.

Keywords: Asian Americans; Lubben Social Network Scale-6 (LSNS-6); Social network; limited English proficiency; social isolation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Asian*
  • Emigration and Immigration*
  • Ethnicity
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Quality of Life
  • Social Isolation
  • United States