The association between length of residence and obesity among Hispanic immigrants

Mark S Kaplan, Nathalie Huguet, Jason T Newsom, Bentson H McFarland
American Journal of Preventive Medicine 2004, 27 (4): 323-6

BACKGROUND: Newly arrived Hispanic immigrants are generally healthier than the U.S.-born population, but this distinction tends to diminish over time as immigrants adapt to a new and different sociocultural environment.

OBJECTIVE: This study sought to determine whether length of residence in the United States was associated with obesity (body mass index [BMI]>30 kg/m(2)) among Hispanic immigrants.

METHODS: Data for 2420 foreign-born Hispanic adults aged > or =18 years were obtained from the 1998 National Health Interview Survey.

RESULTS: The prevalence of obesity among those with 0 to 4, 5 to 9, 10 to 14, and > or =15 years of residence in the United States was 9.4%, 14.5%, 21.0%, and 24.2%, respectively. A logistic regression model adjusted for smoking, physical inactivity, self-assessed health, chronic conditions, functional limitations, nonspecific psychological distress, several sociodemographic characteristics, and access to health services found that longer-term Hispanic immigrants (> or =15 years) experienced a nearly four-fold greater risk of obesity than did recent immigrants (<5 years).

CONCLUSIONS: The higher risk for obesity associated with length of residence may be due to acculturation processes such as the adoption of the unhealthy dietary practices (i.e., a diet high in fat and low in fruits and vegetables) and sedentary lifestyles of the host country. The results of this study may facilitate the planning of public health interventions that are directed at subgroups of the Hispanic population.

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