Newly arrived immigrants to the United States are often faced with many disadvantages, but one area where they may have a distinct advantage is their health. In a study published in Family and Community Health, Filipino immigrants in the New York City metro area had a higher risk of obesity if they lived in the U.S. longer.
According to author and assistant professor of community health sciences, Dr. Aimee Afable, time in the U.S. is a marker for assimilation. “We know that immigrants arrive in the US with a health advantage. However, evidence suggests that this advantage erodes over time, a process sometimes referred to as ‘unhealthy assimilation.’” This study examines “unhealthy assimilation” in the form of obesity with respect to a specific country of origin, the Philippines.
1213 adults who identified as Filipino and were born in the Philippines, were recruited from community, faith-based and cultural organizations in the NYC area. They completed surveys about their year of immigration, current age, preferred language and socioeconomic status, and their BMI’s were calculated from measured heights and weights.
Filipinos residing in the US for more than 15 years were more likely to be obese than immigrants living in the US less than 5 years. This was especially true for Filipinos who immigrated before the age of 30.
Dr. Afable adds, “While our findings should be confirmed in prospective, causal studies, they contribute to the evidence base suggesting increased exposure to the US environment is detrimental to the health of immigrants.”