Acculturation, physical activity, and obesity among Hispanic adolescents

Ethn Health. 2009 Oct;14(5):509-25. doi: 10.1080/13557850902890209.


Objective: Little is known about how acculturation may influence participation in leisure-time physical activity and obesity among adolescents. The objective of this study was to examine these associations among Hispanic adolescents.

Design: Data were drawn from the 2003 National Survey of Children's Health, restricted to Hispanic adolescents aged 10-17 (n=4704). Acculturation was assessed by proxy measures (generation status and language spoken at home). Adolescents who were not reported to engage in physical activity lasting at least 20 minutes, that was vigorous enough to cause sweating and hard breathing, for at least three days per week were defined as failing to meet physical activity requirements. Obesity was defined as gender and age-specific body mass index values at or above the 95th percentile of the reference population. Multiple logistic regressions were performed to adjust for confounders.

Results: Of the Hispanic adolescents studied, 25.2%, 43.8%, and 31.1% were first, second, and third generation or more, respectively. English was the primary language in the home for 42.8% of these adolescents. Compared with adolescents in the third generation, adolescents from immigrant families had higher odds for not obtaining recommended physical activity (first generation: adjusted odds ratio [AOR] = 1.50, 95% conference intervals [CI]: 1.09, 2.05; second generation: AOR = 1.29, 95% CI: 0.99, 1.69). Living in homes where English was not the primary language, vs. English-speaking homes, was also associated with not obtaining recommended physical activity (AOR = 1.36, 95% CI: 1.06, 1.75). The unadjusted prevalence of obesity was higher in homes where English was not the primary language (22.5% vs. 16.1%; p<0.01), but this difference disappeared after adjusting for family socioeconomic status. Generational status was not a significant correlate of obesity.

Conclusions: Findings suggest that future public health interventions that aim to increasing physical activity among Hispanic adolescents should be tailored based on generational status and English-language use.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Acculturation*
  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior
  • Body Mass Index
  • Body Size
  • Child
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Health Surveys
  • Hispanic or Latino / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Life Style
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Motor Activity*
  • Obesity / epidemiology*
  • Risk Factors
  • United States / epidemiology