Mr. Shuai Zhou is a full-time PhD student in the Department of Applied Social Sciences at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University. He obtained his bachelor’s degree in social work and master’s degree in sociology from Central China Normal University. His current research centres on three main topics, including life-course trajectories of health inequalities among older adults, the antecedents and consequences of the intergenerational exchange of support, and preparations for later life.
Longitudinal Effects of Experience of Discrimination on Psychological Well-Being among Older Chinese adults: The Moderating Role of Subjective Socioeconomic Status
Shuai Zhou, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong
There is ample evidence that interpersonal discrimination may lead to negative health and well-being outcomes. However, few studies have examined multiple forms of discrimination experienced by older adults. This study investigated the causal effects of older Chinese adults’ experience of interpersonal and political discrimination on psychological well-being and how subjective socioeconomic status modulates the toxicity of different forms of discrimination.
Data were retrieved from the China Family Panel Survey, consisting of 8026 older respondents aged 50 and older in 2010 and their follow-up observations in 2012, 2014, and 2016. Seven forms of unfair treatment were classified into two types of discrimination: (a) interpersonal discrimination, including unfair treatment based on economic difference, hukou status, and gender, and (b) political discrimination, consisting of unfair experience with government officials, having conflict with government officials, being unfairly procrastinated or refused by government agencies, and being unfairly charged by government agencies. County-level prevalence rates of interpersonal and political discrimination were created as proxies of individual-level discriminatory experiences. Fixed effects panel regression was performed to examine the effects of interpersonal and political discrimination on psychological distress and life satisfaction, separately, as well as the buffering effects of relative income and subjective social status.
At the baseline, 38% of older people reported discriminatory experience. Results of instrumental variable regression confirmed that discriminatory experiences significantly worsened older adults’ psychological distress and life satisfaction. Results further revealed that interpersonal discrimination was negatively associated with life satisfaction, while political discrimination increased psychological distress. Both relative income and subjective social status ameliorated the negative effect of interpersonal discrimination on life satisfaction. Additionally, older people with higher subjective social status experienced fewer psychological distress due to interpersonal discrimination.
Discrimination is detrimental to psychological well-being, with interpersonal discrimination reducing satisfaction with life and political discrimination exaggerating psychological distress. Findings imply that subjective socioeconomic status could protect older adults from harmful effects of interpersonal discrimination, but not institutional discrimination.