Most immigrants to the United States enjoy better health than Americans of comparable income levels and those differences have generally been consistent across race and gender lines.
A new study reports that blacks from other countries are most often healthier than black Americans when they arrive in the United States, but the health benefit does not last.
“Most studies have found that similar to Hispanic immigrants, black immigrants might have a health advantage over U.S.-born blacks and that living in ethnic enclaves protects them from disease vulnerability,” said study author Gniesha Dinwiddie, an African-American Studies professor at the University of Maryland, in a university interview. “However, after several rounds of data analysis, the results showed that this health advantage dissipates the longer they stay in the United States.”
While all blacks who live in the United States experience higher levels of stress, on average, than white Americans, blacks born in the Caribbean, Africa or other countries are most stressed by issues related to adjusting to American culture. Their stress levels also rise in relationship to the number of years they spend living in the United States, Dinwidde said.
The researchers found that American-born blacks were more likely stressed by life events such as becoming widowed or divorced.
The study is one of the first to measure specific biological markers that change in relationship to stress in this population. By measuring the impact of stress — or allostatic load — Dinwiddie was able to assess how social conditions that continuously activate hormonal responses to stressful conditions effect the body of black immigrants. Over time, carrying a high allostatic load can erode health.
A Different American Experience
Dinwiddie’s research also uncovered other interesting differences between blacks who come to the United States after birth and those who are born here. Immigrant blacks tended to have higher levels of education than American-born blacks, but they were more likely to live below the federal poverty line—a finding that contradicts most recent research. Yet, foreign-born blacks were less likely to experience stress from economic concerns.
Learn more from: Our Health Heritage: Moving Past the One-Culture-Fits-all Approach.
To conduct the study, Dinwiddie and her team used information from the 2001-2010 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which evaluated 2,897 people to understand risk factors correlated with different health hazards for population groups.
“Results derived from this study are significant because … not much is known about the health of black immigrant populations, and most studies assume that blacks and African-Americans are one homogenous group,” Dinwiddie said.
The results of the nine-year study were published in the American Journal of Public Health.
Make a Friend; Save a Life
Loneliness can shorten someone’s life by as much as much as 29 percent, new research explains. Living life with few social contacts or feeling completely alone has an even greater impact on people who are ill or over 65. More than 40 percent of older black women live alone, so find a little time to take a neighbor out for coffee. It will be good for both of you.