Pulmonary Disease and Age at Immigration among Hispanics. Results from the Hispanic Community Health Study/Study of Latinos

Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2016 Feb 15;193(4):386-95. doi: 10.1164/rccm.201506-1211OC.


Rationale: Asthma has been reported to be more prevalent among Hispanics of Puerto Rican heritage than among other Hispanics and among Hispanics born in the United States or who immigrated as children than among those who came as adults; however, direct comparisons across Hispanic groups are lacking.

Objectives: To test whether asthma is more prevalent among Hispanics of Puerto Rican heritage than among other Hispanic groups, whether asthma is associated with age of immigration, and whether chronic obstructive pulmonary disease varies by heritage in a large, population-based cohort of Hispanics in the United States.

Methods: The Hispanic Community Health Study/Study of Latinos researchers recruited a population-based probability sample of 16,415 Hispanics/Latinos, 18-74 years of age, in New York City, Chicago, Miami, and San Diego. Participants self-reported Puerto Rican, Cuban, Dominican, Mexican, Central American, or South American heritage; birthplace; and, if relevant, age at immigration. A respiratory questionnaire and standardized spirometry were performed with post-bronchodilator measures for those with airflow limitation.

Measurements and main results: The prevalence of physician-diagnosed asthma among Puerto Ricans (36.5%; 95% confidence interval, 33.6-39.5%) was higher than among other Hispanics (odds ratio, 3.9; 95% confidence interval, 3.3-4.6). Hispanics who were born in the mainland United States or had immigrated as children had a higher asthma prevalence than those who had immigrated as adults (19.6, 19.4, and 14.1%, respectively; P < 0.001). Current asthma, bronchodilator responsiveness, and wheeze followed similar patterns. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease prevalence was higher among Puerto Ricans (14.1%) and Cubans (9.8%) than among other Hispanics (<6.0%), but it did not vary across Hispanic heritages after adjustment for smoking and prior asthma (P = 0.22), by country of birth, or by age at immigration.

Conclusions: Asthma was more prevalent among Puerto Ricans, other Hispanics born in the United States, and those who had immigrated as children than among other Hispanics. In contrast, the higher prevalence of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease among Puerto Ricans and Cubans was largely reflective of differential smoking patterns and asthma.

Keywords: asthma; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; race/ethnicity; social determinants of health.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Asthma / epidemiology*
  • Central America / ethnology
  • Cohort Studies
  • Emigrants and Immigrants / statistics & numerical data*
  • Emigration and Immigration
  • Female
  • Health Surveys / statistics & numerical data*
  • Hispanic Americans / ethnology*
  • Hispanic Americans / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mexico / ethnology
  • Middle Aged
  • Odds Ratio
  • Prevalence
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / epidemiology*
  • Risk Factors
  • South America / ethnology
  • Spirometry
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States / epidemiology
  • West Indies / ethnology

Grant support