Chronic health problems plague immigrants decades after move

Is migrating to the United States hazardous to your health?

If you’re Latino and have lived in the states more than 20 years, you might want to listen up: Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have found that the longer immigrants have lived in the U.S., the worse their health gets.

Latinos who migrated to the U.S. more than 20 years ago were twice as likely to be obese as those who had lived here for less than 10 years, lead researcher Leslie Cofie and colleagues reported Monday at the American Public Health Association’s annual meeting and expo in Washington.

Latino immigrants also had a 68% higher chance of developing hypertension and were more than twice as likely to have diabetes as counterparts who’d lived in the U.S. for less than 10 years.

“It says a lot about living in the U.S.,” Cofie said in a telephone interview after his presentation. “It says a lot about lifestyles and adaptation of U.S. culture” -- behavior changes involving diet, exercise, types of jobs, more.

Though minority immigrants may arrive with the thought that they will have health advantages after they move to the U.S., his research, instead, shows there may be a steady decline of those advantages over the years.


“The next step is working to determine what mechanism can reverse the disparities,” Cofie said.

The study involved 5,621 men and women, 1,106 of whom were Latino immigrants, and 623 Latino Americans born in the United States. The other racial and ethnic populations included non-Latino Whites and African Americans, but Cofie said the sample sizes of those populations were not large enough to produce sufficient data.