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Lydia W. Li

Associate Professor of Social Work

Lydia Li is Associate Professor at the University of Michigan School of Social Work where she is a gerontologist with an interest in issues related to aging and health, and cross-cultural gerontology. Her research aims to understand how multiple levels of factors and their interaction contribute to older people’s physical, psychological and cognitive health. One unifying theme of her research is to investigate and address health disparities impacting vulnerable segments of the elderly population, including older adults with low incomes, older adults in rural China, and older Chinese immigrants in the United States.  She is a fellow of the Gerontological Society of America (GSA) and served as the co-chair of the 2016 GSA program committee. She was a Hartford Geriatric Social Work Faculty Scholar. Currently she is serving as an associate editor of the International Journal of Social Welfare, an editorial board member of the Journal of Gerontological Social Work, and an expert reviewer for the Public Policy Research Funding Scheme in Hong Kong. She has been an associate editor of BMC Geriatrics. She is affiliated with the Lieberthal-Rogel Center for Chinese Studies, Population Studies Center, and Asian/Pacific Islander American Studies at the University of Michigan.

Research Interests/Focus

Mental health and cognitive function in later life; community-based interventions for depression and cognitive impairment prevention in older Chinese populations; ageism, racism and health.


Year Degree   School
2000 PhD Social Welfare University of Wisconsin, Madison
1989 MSW Social Work University of Hong Kong, China
1984 Honor's Diploma Social Work Hong Kong Baptist College, China

Xue, J., Chen, X., Bogner, H., Tang, W., Li, L. W., & Conwell, Y. (in press). The prevalence of depressive symptoms among older patients with hypertension in rural China. International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.

Zhang, Z., Liu, J., Li, L. W., & Xu, H. (in press). The long arm of childhood in China: Early life conditions and cognitive function among middle-aged and older adults. Journal of Aging and Health.

Li, L. W., Harris, R., Tsodikov, A., Struble, L., & Murphy, S. (in press). Self-acupressure for older adults with symptomatic knee osteoarthritis: A randomized controlled trial. Arthritis Care and Research.

Xu, H., Zhang, Z., Li, L. W., & Liu, J. (in press). Early-life exposure to China’s 1959-61 famine and midlife cognition. International Journal of Epidemiology.

Li, L. W., Gee, G., & Dong, X. (in press). Association of self-reported discrimination and suicide ideation in older Chinese Americans. American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.

Xu, L., Tang, F., Li, L. W., & Dong, X. (2017). Grandparent caregiving and psychological well-being among Chinese American older adults –The roles of caregiving burden and pressure. Journals of Gerontology: Medical Sciences, 72(suppl_1), S56-62.

Li, L. W., Ding, D., Wu, B., & Dong, X. (2017). Change of cognitive function in U.S. Chinese older adults: A population-based study. Journals of Gerontology: Medical Sciences, 72(suppl_1), S5-10.

Li, L. W. & Dong, X. (2017). Self-reported discrimination and depressive symptoms among older Chinese adults in Chicago. Journals of Gerontology: Medical Sciences, 72(suppl_1), S119-124.

Davitt, J., Li, L. W., & Rastigue, K. (2016). Policies to protect the rights of older adults and support family caregivers. Handbook for Social Work in Health and Aging (2nd ed.). Oxford University Press.

Li, L. W., Liu, J., Xu, H. & Zhang, Z. (2016). Understanding rural-urban differences in depressive symptoms among older adults in China. Journal of Aging and Health, 28(2), 341-362.

Li, L. W., & Long, Y. (2016). Health care experience of older persons with chronic illness in rural and urban China:  A qualitative study in Shandong, China. University of Michigan Deep Blue.

Li, L. W., Xu, H., Zhang, Z., & Liu, L. (2016). An ecological study of social fragmentation, socioeconomic deprivation, and suicide in rural China: 2008-2010. SSM- Population Health, 2, 365-372.

Liu, J., Li, L. W., Zhang, Z & Xu, H. (2016). Associations between physical health and depressive symptoms in Chinese older adults: Do neighborhood resources matter? SSM- Population Health, 2, 531-535.

Pan, X., Liu, J., Li, L. W., & Kwok, J. (2016). Posttraumatic growth in aging individuals who have lost their only child in China. Death Studies, 40(7), 395-404.

Xu, H., Li, L. W., Zhang, Z., & Liu, J. (2016). Is natural experiment a cure? Re-examining the long-term health effects of China’s 1959-1961 famine. Social Science and Medicine, 148, 110-122.

Li, L. W., Harris, R., Murphy, S., Tsodikov, A., & Struble, L. (2016). Feasibility of a randomized controlled trial of self-administered acupressure for symptom management in older adults with knee osteoarthritis. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 22(5), 396-403.

Li, L. W., Liu, J., Zhang, Z., & Xu, H. (2015). Late-life depression in rural China: Do village infrastructure and availability of community resources matter? International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 30(7), 729-736.

Cheng, S-T, Fung, H., Li, L. W., Li, T., Woo, J., & Chi, I. (2015). Successful aging: Concepts, reflections, and its relevance to Asia. In Cheung, S.-T., Chi, I., Fung, H., Li, L. W., & Woo J. (Eds.). Successful Aging: Asian Perspectives 1-18. NY: Springer.

Long, Y. & Li, L. W. (2015). "How would we deserve better?" Rural-urban dichotomy in health-seeking for the chronically ill elderly in China. Qualitative Health Research. Sage Journals.

Zhang, J., & Li, L. W. (2015). Provincial variation in marketization and successful aging in China: A multilevel analysis. Journal of Population Aging.

Cheung, S.-T., Chi, I., Fung, H., Li, L. W., & Woo J. (Eds.). (2015). Successful Aging: Asian Perspectives. New York: Springer.

Li, L. W. & Zhang, J. (2015). Challenges to successful aging in transitional China. In Cheung, S.-T., Chi, I., Fung, H., Li, L. W., & Woo J. (Eds.), Successful Aging: Asian Perspectives 33-50. New York: Springer.

Cheung S.-T., Li, L. W., Woo, J., Fung, H., & Chi, I. (2015). Successful aging in East Asia: a concerted effort of the State, the family, and the individual. In Cheung, S.-T., Chi, I., Fung, H., Li, L. W., & Woo J. (Eds.). Successful Aging: Asian Perspectives 339-346. New York: Springer.

Li, L. W., Essex, E. & Long, Y. (2014). Quality of life as perceived by older persons with chronic illness in rural and urban Shangdong, China. Journal of Cross Cultural Gerontology, 29(4), 417-428.

Chen, S., Boyle, L., Conwell, Y., Chiu, H., Li, L. W. & Xiao, S. (2013). Dementia care in rural China. Mental Health in Family Medicine, 10(3), 133-141.

Li, Lydia, McLaughlin, S. (2012). Caregiver confidence: Does it predict changes in disability among elderly health care recipients? The Gerontologist, 52(1), 79-88.

Li, L. W., Long, Y., Essex, E., Sui, Y., & Gao, L. (2012). Elderly Chinese and their family caregivers' perceptions of good care: A qualitative study in Shangdong, China. Journal of Gerontological Social Work, 55(7), 609-625.

Ingersoll-Dayton, B., Dunkle, R. E., Chadiha, L. A., Lawrence-Jacobson, A., Li, L., & Weir, E. (2011). Intergenerational ambivalence: Aging mothers whose adult daughters are mentally ill. Families in Society, 92(1), 114-119.

Li, L. W., & Conwell, Y. (2010). Pain and self-injury ideation in elderly men and women receiving home care. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 58, 2160-2165.

McLaughlin, S. J., Connell, C. M., Heeringa, S. G., Li, L. W., & Roberts, S. (2010). Successful aging in the United States: Prevalence estimates from a national sample of older adults. Journal of Gerontology: Social Sciences, 65B(2), 216-226.

Li, L., & Sui, Y. (2009). Family: Roles of the elderly. In D. Pong (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Modern China. Detroit, MI: Charles Scribner’s Sons, Gale/Cengage Learning.

Li, L. W., Zhang, J., & Liang, J. (2009). Health among the oldest-old in China: Which living arrangements make a difference? Social Science and Medicine, 69(2), 220-227.

Li, L. W., & Conwell, Y. (2009). Effects of changes in depressive symptoms and cognitive functioning on physical disability in home care elderly. Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences, 64A(2), 230-236.

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