Social Support, Family Integration, and Health Outcomes of U.S. Immigrants

Bridget K. Gorman, Rice University
Elaine Ecklund, University at Buffalo, State University of New York (SUNY)
Holly Heard, Rice University

Research consistently reveals evidence of a health paradox among immigrants. Yet, while theoretical explanations for the paradox abound, actual research examining commonly hypothesized mediators, particularly social support, is lacking. This study examines the relationship between immigrant status and mental and physical health with data from the 2001 wave of the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), focusing on the mediating role of social support. Results show clear evidence of an immigrant paradox in physical health, but less consistent support for differences between immigrants and non-immigrants in mental health status. Social support does not explain the bulk of the immigration effect on physical health, but is more successful at explaining effects of race and ethnicity on mental health outcomes. In our discussion, we refine theoretical models of the immigrant health paradox and offer implications these results have for future research on immigrant health.

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Presented in Session 85: Immigrant Health