Study Compares Health of Asian, Latino Immigrant Families
Each generation of Asian immigrant families improves its health habits, while their Latino counterparts either show no improvement or develop less healthy habits, according to a RAND study published online Tuesday in the American Journal of Public Health, the Los Angeles Times reports. The study analyzed a 2001 survey of nearly 6,000 adolescents ages 12 to 17 who represented at least three generations of Asian and Latino immigrant groups, which are the two largest immigrant groups in the country.
Lead researcher Michele Allen, an assistant professor at the Program in Health Disparities Research at the University of Minnesota, and colleagues looked at diet, exercise, television viewing and other habits of the adolescents. According to the study, Asian and Latino immigrant groups after they first arrived in the U.S. drank fewer sodas and ate more fruits and vegetables than whites.
After two generations, the health habits of Asian youths either equaled or surpassed those of whites in additional areas, including more exercise and fewer hours of television viewing, the study found. Latino adolescents after two generations had less healthy diets than Asians and whites and were less likely to use seat belts, bicycle helmets or sunscreen, according to the study.
The study "could help explain rising rates of obesity and diabetes among Latinos," the Times reports. Previous research has suggested that Latinos have relatively good health despite having low incomes, but the study indicates that Latinos' health could diminish over time.
Allen said that if her findings are true, Latinos' better-than-expected health "is probably not going to hold out over generations." She also noted that poverty is not the singular cause of health disparities between the Latinos and other groups because the findings were consistent across economic groups -- except physical activity among higher-income Latino youths, which was comparable to exercise among whites.
Allen said, "We know that Latinos are much more likely to be uninsured than any other groups. There is the possibility that they're not hearing the health messages because they don't have access to a regular source of health care" (Engel, Los Angeles Times, 12/6).