Acculturation, gender, and physical/psychological health : the case of Middle Eastern immigrants in the U.S.



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Previous studies show that health outcomes of immigrants in the United States are favorable compared with U.S.-born whites. Middle Eastern (ME) immigrants are a growing U.S. minority population, yet research on their health is minimal. Using data from the 2002–2012 National Health Interview Surveys, this dissertation addresses key gaps in the immigrant health literature of the ME population through three empirical chapters examining the association between ac¬culturation and various physical/psychological health outcomes of ME immigrants in the U.S. I first examine the association between acculturation and three health outcomes (self-rated health, activity limitations, and chronic health conditions) among ME immigrants, comparing their health to those of U.S.-born whites. Results show that whereas the least acculturated ME immigrants have significantly lower odds of reporting fair or poor health, the most acculturated ME immigrants have higher odds of reporting fair or poor health compared to U.S.-born whites. Additionally, ME immigrants are significantly less likely to report any activity limitations or chronic health conditions compared to U.S.-born whites. I next investigate whether the relationship between acculturation and the three health outcomes varies by gender. Results indicate that, ME immigrants are generally healthier than U.S.-born whites; ME immigrant men are healthier than ME immigrant women. The study finds evidence of an association between acculturation and self-rated health. However, the acculturation pattern does not hold for activity limitations or for chronic health conditions. Male and female ME immigrants of all accultura¬tion levels are less likely to report any activity limitations or chronic health conditions compared to their U.S.-born counterparts.I then examine the linkage of duration status and serious psychological distress (SPD) of ME immigrants comparing their SPD to those of U.S.-born whites and investigating whether this relationship varies by gender. I find evidence that duration status and SPD pattern pertains to ME immigrants, particularly women, who report higher odds of SPD compared to their male counterparts. Results show no statistically significant differences between ME immigrant men and U.S.-born white men with regard to SPD. On the contrary, whereas ME immigrant women with shorter duration are less likely to report SPD than U.S.-born whites, ME immigrant women with longer duration are significantly more likely to report SPD compared to U.S.-born whites.