Age at arrival and risk of obesity among US immigrants

Obesity (Silver Spring). 2008 Dec;16(12):2669-75. doi: 10.1038/oby.2008.425. Epub 2008 Oct 9.


Although immigrants are a rapidly growing subgroup, little is known about overweight/obesity among the foreign-born in the United States, especially regarding the effect of age at arrival. This study determined whether overweight/obesity prevalence is associated with age at arrival of immigrants to the United States. We analyzed data on 6,421 adult immigrants from the New Immigrant Survey (NIS), a study that is nationally representative of adult immigrants with newly acquired legal permanent residence (LPR). Multiple regression analyses tested the effects of duration of residence and age at arrival on overweight/obesity, defined by BMI of > or = 25 kg/m(2), and self-reported dietary change score. We found the relationship between duration of residence and overweight/obesity prevalence varied by age at arrival (P < 0.001). Immigrants < or = 20-years old at arrival who had resided in the United States > or = 15 years were 11 times (95% confidence interval: 5.33, 22.56) more likely to be overweight/obese than immigrants < 20-years old at arrival who had resided in the United States < or = 1 year. By comparison, there was no difference in overweight/obesity prevalence by duration among immigrants who arrived at >50 years of age. Higher self-reported dietary change is also associated with overweight/obesity. In conclusion, immigrants younger than 20 at arrival in the United States may be at higher risk of overweight/obesity with increasing duration of residence than those who arrive at later ages. Obesity prevention among young US immigrants should be a priority.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acculturation*
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Body Mass Index
  • Cohort Studies
  • Data Collection
  • Diet
  • Emigrants and Immigrants*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / epidemiology*
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Factors
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • United States / epidemiology