Change in self-reported health status among immigrants in the United States: associations with measures of acculturation

PLoS One. 2013 Oct 1;8(10):e76494. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0076494. eCollection 2013.

Abstract

Although acculturation may have positive effects for immigrants, including better socioeconomic profiles and increased occupational opportunities, their health profiles deteriorate with longer duration in the U.S. Prior research indicates that increasing acculturation is associated with some poorer health outcomes among immigrants in the U.S. However, most of these studies have used length of stay or English language proficiency as proxies for acculturation, and have mainly examined self-reported "current" health outcomes. This study advances knowledge on associations between acculturation and health among immigrants by explicitly examining self-reported "change" in health since immigration, in relation to acculturation-related variables. We use data from the New Immigrant Survey (NIS; 2003-2004), a cross-sectional study of legal immigrants to the U.S. In addition to testing more conventionally examined proxies of acculturation (length of stay and English proficiency), we also examine English language use and self-reported change in diet. Multivariable logistic regression analyses on 5,982 participants generally supported previous literature indicating a deleterious impact of acculturation, with increasing duration of stay and greater self-reported change in diet being associated with a poorer change in health since moving to the U.S. Although English language proficiency and use were associated with greater odds of reporting a worse change in health when examined individually, they were non-significant in multivariable models including all acculturation measures. Findings from this study suggest that when taking into account multiple measures of acculturation, language may not necessarily indicate unhealthy assimilation and dietary change may be a pathway leading to declines in immigrant health. Increasing duration in the U.S. may also reflect the adoption of unhealthy behaviors, as well as greater exposure to harmful sources of psychosocial stress including racial and anti-immigrant discrimination. Our study suggests that multiple indicators of acculturation may be useful in examining the effect of acculturation on changes in health among immigrants.

MeSH terms

  • Acculturation*
  • Adult
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Emigrants and Immigrants / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Self Report*
  • Social Class
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • United States

Grant support

The authors have no funding or support to report.