WASHINGTON - Hispanics born and raised in the United States may be in poorer health than new immigrants -- with higher rates of diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, U.S. researchers reported on Tuesday.
Poor eating habits, smoking and a lack of exercise are all likely to blame, the team at the University of Southern California, the University of California Los Angeles and the University of Pennsylvania said.
This may reinforce the idea that the healthiest people emigrate.The researchers looked at surveys of more than 4,200 whites, blacks and Hispanics aged 40 or older interviewed by federal researchers from 1999 to 2002.
"Many studies report that Hispanics in the United States have better or similar health to that of non-Hispanic whites despite Hispanics having lower incomes and less education," the researchers wrote in their report, published in the American Journal of Public Health.
They found this was indeed the case -- for immigrants. But Mexicans-Americans born in the United States were less healthy than whites of the same socioeconomic background.
"One possible explanation is that people who immigrate are healthy to begin with and they may also have come here with better health habits," said Eileen Crimmins, a professor of gerontology at USC who led the study.
"The generation born here has adopted American traits such as smoking and eating at fast food restaurants that were not as accessible in more traditional parts of Mexico."
The researchers also found that immigrants born in Mexico were taller and had better childhood nutrition than those who stay in their country of origin. This may reinforce the idea that the healthiest people emigrate, they report in a study to be published in the journal Social Biology.