Lisa Bates and colleagues just published an editorial in Circulation on the “Healthy Immigrant Effect” – the better health outcomes observed among immigrants as compared to their native born peers. Their editorial comments on research from the Cardiovascular Health in Ambulatory Care Research Team (CANHEART) showing that immigrants to Ontario, Canada experience lower risk of cardiovascular disease compared to long-term residents. However, as for other outcomes, the protective effect of being an immigrant appears to decline somewhat with longer duration of residence in Canada. The editorial argues that progress in research on immigrant health trajectories would benefit from greater attention to life course issues and the timing of immigration, and to insights from segmented assimilation theory that point to how contextual features of the host environment may be implicated in the other dominant feature of the Health Immigrant Effect – it doesn’t seem to last. Bates and colleagues have published several papers on the Healthy Immigrant Effect, looking at birth outcomes, self-rated health, body mass index and stroke incidence.
Other members of the Social Epidemiology Cluster have also studied the Healthy Immigrant Effect. Rundle and colleagues have shown that immigrants in NYC have lower BMIs than their U.S. born peers, but among immigrants average BMI scores are higher among those who have lived in the U.S. for a longer duration. They have also published research on the links between dietary patterns among Hispanic women and residence in immigrant neighborhoods and work on Hispanic immigrant women’s attitudes and beliefs about what constitutes healthy foods.