Media Releases

Older U.S.-born Mexican-Americans have more physical limitations than Mexican American immigrants: Study

May 3, 2013

TORONTO, ON —New research indi­cates that Mex­i­can-Amer­i­cans born in the Unit­ed States who are aged 55 and over are sig­nif­i­cant­ly more like­ly than Mex­i­can-Amer­i­can immi­grants to report that they have sub­stan­tial lim­i­ta­tions in one or more basic phys­i­cal activ­i­ties such as walk­ing, climb­ing stairs, reach­ing, lift­ing, or car­ry­ing. (30% ver­sus 25%).

The research, pub­lished in this week’s Inter­na­tion­al Jour­nal of Envi­ron­men­tal Research and Pub­lic Health, was a joint study by the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to and the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia, Berke­ley. A sam­ple of Mex­i­can-Amer­i­can adults aged 55 and over was drawn from the nation­al­ly rep­re­sen­ta­tive 2006 Amer­i­can Com­mu­ni­ty Sur­vey which includ­ed more than 13,000 res­i­dents born in the U.S. and more than 11,000 immi­grants.

“We explored sev­er­al plau­si­ble rea­sons why Mex­i­can-Amer­i­can immi­grants, despite fac­ing the con­sid­er­able chal­lenges of relo­ca­tion, have few­er health lim­i­ta­tions than Mex­i­can-Amer­i­cans born in the Unit­ed States,” says lead author Esme Fuller-Thom­son, San­dra Rot­man Endowed Chair at Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to’s Fac­tor-Inwen­tash Fac­ul­ty of Social Work at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to.

“It is pos­si­ble that the type of per­son who choos­es to immi­grate is par­tic­u­lar­ly hardy and resilient and these char­ac­ter­is­tics may pro­vide long-term health ben­e­fits. If this is the case, those who migrat­ed as chil­dren, where the process of migra­tion can be assumed to be insti­gat­ed by the par­ents rather than the child, would report more health prob­lems in old age than those who came as adults. In sup­port of this idea, old­er Mex­i­can Amer­i­cans who immi­grat­ed before age 16 had 62 per cent high­er odds of func­tion­al lim­i­ta­tions than those who came as adults.”

One pos­si­ble expla­na­tion is that the His­pan­ic lifestyle, per­haps nutri­tion and/or strong social sup­port net­works, pro­mote good health out­comes. If this were the case, as co-author Mered­ith Min­kler, Pro­fes­sor of Pub­lic Health at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia, Berke­ley explains, “It would seem like­ly that the least accul­tur­at­ed indi­vid­u­als should have the fewest func­tion­al lim­i­ta­tions. In con­trast to our expec­ta­tions, we found Mex­i­can-Amer­i­can immi­grants who spoke Eng­lish at home had bet­ter func­tion­al lim­i­ta­tions out­comes in com­par­i­son to those who did not speak Eng­lish at home, even when account­ing for income, edu­ca­tion, sex and age.”

“With one-quar­ter of old­er Mex­i­can-Amer­i­can immi­grants and 30 per­cent of Mex­i­can-Amer­i­cans born in the Unit­ed States report­ing sub­stan­tial phys­i­cal lim­i­ta­tions, there is a clear need for pro­vid­ing all Mex­i­can-Amer­i­can old­er adults with appro­pri­ate health care, par­tic­u­lar­ly in light of the rapid growth of this pop­u­la­tion” says co-author Amani Nuru-Jeter, Asso­ciate Pro­fes­sor of Pub­lic Health at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia, Berke­ley. Addi­tion­al co-authors include Dawn Richard­son and Fer­rah Raza. This research was fund­ed by the Retire­ment Research Foun­da­tion.

A PDF of the study can be down­loaded at:–4601/10/5/1786/pdf.


For more infor­ma­tion, con­tact:

Prof. Esme Fuller-Thom­son
Pro­fes­sor & San­dra Rot­man Chai
Fac­tor-Inwen­tash Fac­ul­ty of Social Work
Depart­ment of Fam­i­ly & Com­mu­ni­ty Med­i­cine
Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to
Cell: 011–44-7806–619640 (cur­rent­ly in Eng­land)

Dominic Ali
Media Rela­tions Offi­cer
Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to
Tel: 416–978.6974