Immigration to the US may result in increased smoking, especially in Latino and Asian women, new research shows. But once immigrants acculturate, smoking rates begin to drop.
“We know that after migrants come to the US, their health behavior and health status change the longer they live in the United States,” says Bridget Gorman, chair and professor of sociology at Rice University. “Our study examined how time spent in the US, along with other aspects reflective of acculturation to the US, relates to smoking behavior among Asian and Latino migrants.”
The research focuses on how gender differences in smoking behavior are shaped by aspects of acculturation and the original decision to migrate. The study appears in the journal Social Science & Medicine.
The study found that smoking prevalence among Asian immigrant men was more than four times that of Asian immigrant women (30.4 percent and 7.1 percent, respectively); among Latino immigrants, men’s smoking prevalence was more than twice that of women’s (29.5 percent and 12.6 percent, respectively). For smoking frequency, Asian men on average smoked 2.5 more cigarettes per day than Asian women, compared with 1.5 more cigarettes per day that Latino men smoked than Latino women.
In addition, their analyses also showed that smoking increases with duration of US residence among Asian immigrants (both prevalence and frequency) and among Latino immigrants (frequency only).
However, the study also found that independent of time spent in the US, “immigrants who form strong connections to the US through English-language proficiency and citizenship acquisition benefit in terms of reduced smoking.” Gorman says this may be because the stresses associated with adapting to the US have declined; but since both English-language proficiency and citizenship are associated with higher socioeconomic standing, this might also indicate that smoking is lower among the most economically well-off migrants.
Smoking stigma and gender
Gorman, the lead author of the study, also noted that although there “tends to be an uptick in unhealthy behaviors like smoking after migration, patterns differ across ethnic groups and between men and women. In particular, women’s smoking behavior tends to increase more after migration to the US than men.”
Gorman says the uptick in smoking among women may be due to differences in smoking stigma that exist for women in Latin America and especially Asia. She says that the smoking stigma for women is significantly less in the US, so when gender differences in smoking between the native and foreign-born are compared, gender gaps tend to be much larger among migrant populations living in the US.
The current study found that accounting for gender differences in aspects of acculturation (including time spent in the US, citizenship status, and English-language proficiency) explained gender differences in smoking frequency for both Asian and Latino migrants.
The study used a sample of 3,249 Asian and Latino migrant adults aged 18 and older. The study examined how smoking behavior relates to age at migration, citizenship status, and length of time in the US; how frequently they visit their home country; and how proficient they are in their native language and in English.
The study was coauthored by researchers at Duke University and the University of Southern California.
Source: Rice University