Resiliency in the face of disadvantage: do Hispanic cultural characteristics protect health outcomes?

J Pers. 2009 Dec;77(6):1707-46. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-6494.2009.00598.x. Epub 2009 Sep 30.


Hispanics living in the United States may face substantial adversity, given stresses of immigration and acculturation, low incomes, poor educational and occupational opportunities, inadequate access to health care, and exposure to discrimination. Despite these disadvantages, the Hispanic population often shows equal or better health outcomes when compared to non-Hispanic Whites, a trend that has puzzled researchers and has been referred to as the "Hispanic Paradox." Hispanics with non-U.S. nativity also tend to show better health than those born in the United States, although this advantage dissipates with increasing time spent in the United States. The current article discusses the Reserve Capacity Model (L.C. Gallo & K. A. Matthews, 2003) as a potential framework for understanding how psychosocial risk and resilient factors may contribute to health disparities associated with broad sociocultural factors, such as low socioeconomic status or minority ethnicity. In addition, we examine theory concerning features of the Hispanic culture that may enhance resilience (e.g., social resources, familism, religiousness; G. Marin & B. V. Marin, 1991) in the face of adverse circumstances. We summarize some of our recent work that has empirically tested effects of risk and resilient factors in Hispanic health in the contexts of prostate cancer and cardiovascular disease. We conclude by discussing future directions and opportunities for researchers interested in culture-specific resiliency factors in relation to health outcomes.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Attitude to Health / ethnology*
  • Chronic Disease / ethnology
  • Cultural Characteristics*
  • Health Behavior / ethnology*
  • Health Status
  • Hispanic Americans / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Life Style / ethnology
  • Mental Disorders / ethnology
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care
  • Resilience, Psychological*
  • Social Conditions
  • Social Environment
  • Social Values / ethnology*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • United States