Immigrants Healthier Than U.S.-Born Residents
U.S. immigrants in general are healthier than native-born residents -- as well as less likely to smoke, become obese or have heart disease -- despite less access to health care, according to a report released on Thursday by the National Center for Health Statistics at CDC, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. The report used telephone interviews from 225,429 households conducted between 1998 and 2003.
According to the report, 52% of immigrants interviewed were from Central and South America and the Caribbean, 25% were from Asia, 14% were from Europe and 8% were from other areas. The report finds that the longer immigrants remain in the U.S., the less healthy they become.
For example, 16% of recent Latino immigrants were obese, compared with 22% of Latino immigrants who were in the U.S. for five years or longer and 29.8% of native-born Latinos (McKenna, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 3/2). The report finds that the rate of hypertension among Latino immigrants increased from 13.4% for recent immigrants to 19.8% for those who were in the U.S. for five years or longer.
In addition, among Latino immigrants, the rate of diabetes increased from 6.9% for recent immigrants to 7.5% for those who were in the U.S. for five years or longer, and the rate of heart disease increased from 3.5% to 5.4%, according to the report (Schmid, AP/Salt Lake Tribune, 3/2).
According to the report, 3% of recent Asian immigrants had heart disease, compared with 4.6% of those who were in the U.S. for five years or longer and 6.6% of native-born individuals with Asian heritage. Almost 24% of recent black immigrants had hypertension, compared with 27.4% of those who were in the U.S. for five years or longer and 34.7% of native-born blacks, the report finds.
The report also finds that immigrants are less likely than native-born residents to report mental health problems.
The report "does not suggest why immigrants' health declines so rapidly," the Journal-Constitution reports.
Report author Achintya Dey said, "There is a phenomenon called the 'healthy immigrant' effect; healthy people tend to be the ones who migrate. But over time they adopt the lifestyle and food habits of this country, getting less exercise and eating more fast food" (McKenna, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 3/2).