Self-rated health, gender, and acculturative stress among immigrants in the U.S.: New roles for social support

Author(s): Sarita PANCHANG ; Hilary DOWDY ; Rachel KIMBRO ; Bridget GORMAN



Based on different outcomes, immigrants to the U.S. may experience a decline in health with length of time or acculturation. Acculturative stress is often applied as an explanation for these changes and may be impacted by social supports and social networks, but more information is needed on the specific role of each. Thus far little research has examined acculturative stress and health by both ethnicity and gender.


Drawing on the 2002–2003 National Latino and Asian American Study (NLAAS), we examine data on a nationally-representative sample of foreign-born Latino (N = 1,627) and Asian (N = 1,638) adults living in the United States. We examine relationships between acculturative stress and self-rated physical and mental health, as well as the potential role of social support factors, with a primary focus on gender.


As a group Latinos report more acculturative stress than Asians. However, among Latino immigrants acculturative stress has no association with health, and for Asian immigrants there is an association with physical health among women and mental health among men – but only the latter persisted after adjusting for controls. We do find that among Latino men and women, acculturative stress is health damaging when specific types of social support are low but can even be health promoting at higher support levels.


While self-rated health differs among immigrant groups, we find that acculturative stress may not be the primary driving force behind these differences, but interacts with specific elements of social support to produce unique impacts on health by gender and ethnicity.


  • Immigrant health;
  • Acculturation;
  • Self-rated health;
  • U.S.

Tags: USA, Latinos, Asians, Acculturation, Self-rated health, Well-being, Social support

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