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Immigrants at Greater Risk for Poor Health the Longer They Reside in the US

September 3, 2013

Originally published Dec. 12, 2011

Minority immigrants are at higher risk of experiencing poor health outcomes the longer they stay in the U.S., according to new research released recently at the American Public Health Association’s 139th Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C.

Using National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey data between 2007 and 2008, researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill observed a dramatic increase for prevalence of obesity, diabetes and hypertension among Hispanic immigrants who have lived in the U.S. for more than 20 years compared to those who have lived domestically for less than 10 years.

The results showed that those who have lived in the U.S. for 20 years have a 98 percent greater chance of being obese and 68 percent greater odds of having hypertension. Additionally, immigrants who have lived in the U.S. for more than 20 years are nearly two-and-a-half times more likely to develop diabetes compared to those who have lived in the U.S. for less than 10 years. Findings were based on BMI, blood pressure and diabetes measurements and controlled for age, gender, education, income and other independent factors.

“The findings make a clear connection between communities and health. When we take a broad, comprehensive look at the communities in which U.S. immigrants live and their health status, we see that minority immigrants and their families can disproportionally experience barriers to good health. And that’s troubling,” said Leslie Cofie, MA, MPH, doctoral candidate at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health and lead researcher of the study. “There needs to be more work done to address the full spectrum of factors that influence health outcomes among racial and ethnic groups, including minority immigrants.”

Cofie notes that there was not sufficient data available to sample for other immigrant minority groups such as African immigrants. Cofie is working on further analysis of this data.

-Reprinted with permission from the American Public Health Association