Testing the Latino paradox in Latin America: a population-based study of Intra-regional immigrants in Chile

Baltica Cabieses, Helena Tunstall, Kate Pickett
Revista Médica de Chile 2013, 141 (10): 1255-65

BACKGROUND: Several studies in high-income countries report better health status of immigrants compared to the local population ("healthy migrant" effect), regardless of their socioeconomic deprivation. This is known as the Latino paradox.

AIM: To test the Latino paradox within Latin America by assessing the health of international immigrants to Chile, most of them from Latin American countries, and comparing them to the Chilean-born.

MATERIAL AND METHODS: Secondary data analysis of the population-based CASEN survey-2006. Three health outcomes were included: disability, illness/accident, and cancer/chronic condition (dichotomous). Demographics (age, sex, marital status, urban/rural, ethnicity), socioeconomic-status (SES: educational level, employment status and household income per-capita), and material standards (overcrowding, sanitation, housing quality). Crude and adjusted weighted regression models were performed.

RESULTS: One percent of Chile's population were immigrants, mainly from other Latin American countries. A "healthy migrant" effect appeared within the total immigrant population: this group had a significantly lower crude prevalence of almost all health indicators than the Chilean-born, which remained after adjusting for various demographic characteristics. However, this effect lost significance when adjusting by SES for most outcomes. The Latino paradox was not observed for international immigrants compared to the local population in Chile. Also, health of immigrants with the longest time of residency showed similar health rates to the Chilean-born.

CONCLUSIONS: The Latino paradox was not observed in Chile. Protecting low SES immigrants in Chile could have large positive effects in their health at arrival and over time.

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