Migration circumstances, psychological distress, and self-rated physical health for Latino immigrants in the United States

Jacqueline M Torres, Steven P Wallace
American Journal of Public Health 2013, 103 (9): 1619-27

OBJECTIVES: We determined the impact of premigration circumstances on postmigration psychological distress and self-rated physical health among Latino immigrants.

METHODS: We estimated ordinary least squares and logistic regression models for Latino immigrants in the 2002-2003 National Latino and Asian American Study (n = 1603).

RESULTS: Mean psychological distress scores (range = 10-50) were 14.8 for women and 12.7 for men; 35% of women and 27% of men reported fair or poor physical health. A third of the sample reported having to migrate; up to 46% reported unplanned migration. In multivariate analyses, immigration-related stress was significantly associated with psychological distress, but not with self-rated health, for both Latino men and women. Having to migrate was associated with increased psychological distress for Puerto Rican and Cuban women respondents and with poorer physical health for Puerto Rican migrant men. Unplanned migration was significantly associated with poorer physical health for all Latina women respondents.

CONCLUSIONS: The context of both pre- and postmigration has an impact on immigrant health. Those involved in public health research, policy, and practice should consider variation in immigrant health by migration circumstances, including the context of exit and other immigration-related stressors.

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