Having an Adult Child in the United States, Physical Functioning, and Unmet Needs for Care Among Older Mexican Adults

Epidemiology. 2019 Jul;30(4):553-560. doi: 10.1097/EDE.0000000000001016.


Background: Migration of adult children may impact the health of aging parents who remain in low- and middle-income countries. Prior studies have uncovered mixed associations between adult child migration status and physical functioning of older parents; none to our knowledge has examined the impact on unmet caregiving needs.

Methods: Data come from a population-based study of Mexican adults ≥50 years. We used longitudinal targeted maximum likelihood estimation to estimate associations between having an adult child US migrant and lower-body functional limitations, and both needs and unmet needs for assistance with basic or instrumental activities of daily living (ADLs/IADLs) for 11,806 respondents surveyed over an 11-year period.

Results: For women, having an adult child US migrant at baseline and 2-year follow-up was associated with fewer lower-body functional limitations [marginal risk difference (RD) = -0.14, 95% confidence interval (CI) = -0.26, -0.01] and ADLs/IADLs (RD = -0.08, 95% CI = -0.16, -0.001) at 2-year follow-up. Having an adult child US migrant at all waves was associated with a higher prevalence of functional limitations at 11-year follow-up (RD = 0.04, 95% CI = 0.01, 0.06). Having an adult child US migrant was associated with a higher prevalence of unmet needs for assistance at 2 (RD = 0.13, 95% CI = 0.04, 0.21) and 11-year follow-up for women (RD = 0.07, 95% CI = -0.02, 0.15) and 11-year follow-up for men (RD = 0.08, 95% CI = 0.00, 0.16).

Conclusion: Having an adult child US migrant had mixed associations with physical functioning, but substantial adverse associations with unmet caregiving needs for a cohort of older adults in Mexico.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living*
  • Adult
  • Adult Children*
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Emigration and Immigration*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mexico
  • Middle Aged
  • Needs Assessment
  • Prospective Studies
  • United States