Happiness and
Respect Go
with Elder Care

Researcher’s findings offer a
silver lining for experts
confronting a growing problem

As Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Heritage Month is celebrated nationwide, Rutgers University in Camden College of Arts and Sciences Professor of Health Economics Tetsuji Yamada looks to his native country of Japan for answers about elder care.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), adults 60 and older now outnumber children under five, and by 2050, their proportion of the world's population will nearly double. Yamada's research investigates why this growing population segment is experiencing a widening disparity in access to health care.

In an article published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health titled "Access Disparity and Health Inequality of the Elderly: Unmet Needs and Delayed Healthcare," Yamada examines the health burdens impacting this growing but often overlooked demographic.

Yamada’s study found that elderly patients with negative attitudes and beliefs about health care services were more likely to delay or decline treatment. Meanwhile, seniors with easier access to health insurance and treatment providers were more likely to receive the care they needed. When seniors received health care information from a reliable support network, such as family or friends in the medical field, the outcomes were more positive. Yamada's findings offer a silver lining for health care providers and policymakers looking to confront a growing problem. Simply put, seniors need easy access to quality health care and a supportive network to help them take advantage of those resources.

Yamada traces his interest in health inequality for the elderly to his native Japan. “There is paramount respect and care for elders,” Yamada said. “That has always stayed with me.”

Tetsuji Yamada, professor of health economics

Tetsuji Yamada, professor of health economics

The subject is still near and dear to Yamada’s heart. How does America’s approach to health care for the elderly compare to those of his native country? In another paper coauthored for the American Public Health Association, Yamada and fellow researchers weighed the challenges of aging in the United States and Japan. They hypothesized that, because the U.S. elderly population has experienced more socioeconomic disadvantages, they would experience larger health disparities than their Japanese counterparts.

“The social norms concerning health justice in the United States lagged far behind such norms in Japan,” Yamada said. “An increase in happiness was also found to have a significant influence on health justice. These are all important factors to consider.”

Yamada and his fellow researchers concluded that, while the United States spends more on health care per person, social norms and economic factors lead to greater health disparities. Proper social support networks, and positive attitudes about health care services, along with sufficient health care access and financing, are the right prescriptions for improving senior health outcomes.

“These measures could go a long way to ensure that the needs of some of the most vulnerable members of society are taken care of as the elderly population grows,” Yamada said.

Rutgers University in Camden continues to recognize and celebrate our rich diversity. In recognition of Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AA and NHPI) Heritage Month, the Office of Marketing and Communications will present a monthlong series of stories showcasing the research, scholarship, and humanitarian efforts of our AA and NHPI faculty and students. Despite facing historical discrimination that persists to this day, these individuals draw inspiration from their heritage as they work to confront a variety of societal problems rooted in public policy, the physical sciences, technology, and more. 

Creative Design: Beatris Santos and Douglas Shelton

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