Purpose: To determine whether neighborhood characteristics are associated with self-rated health in older Mexican Americans.
Methods: Epidemiologic data on 3050 older Mexican Americans residing in the southwestern United States during 1993 and 1994 were merged with 1990 US Census data. All subjects were matched to one of 210 census tracts (neighborhoods). Multilevel ordinal logit models were used to examine relationships between self-rated health and individual- and neighborhood-level variables.
Results: After adjusting for individual characteristics, older Mexican Americans were more likely to rate their health poorer if they lived in neighborhoods that were economically disadvantaged, less populated by other Hispanics, or located within 50 miles of the US-Mexico border. In addition, residence in a border community moderated the relationship between self-rated health and neighborhood economic disadvantage. The effect of neighborhood economic disadvantage on poorer self-rated health was two to three times stronger for subjects living near the border region than subjects living further away from the border.
Conclusions: This study demonstrates the importance of considering several dimensions of neighborhood context, especially for Mexican Americans. Residence in a border community and neighborhood economic disadvantage were important predictors of poorer self-rated health status. In addition, older Mexican Americans experience a health benefit from living in neighborhoods populated with other Hispanics.