Nativity and age of migration in relation to morbidity, disability and active life expectancy among older Mexican Americans



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The U.S. Mexican-origin population has experienced rapid growth over the past several decades, with aging Mexican Americans composing a significant part of this increase. Despite these growing numbers there has been relatively little research that explores how nativity and for immigrants, age of migration, affect health outcomes of Mexican Americans in later life. The objective of this dissertation is to examine and document differentials in morbidity, Activities of Daily Living (ADLs), Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLs), and Performance-Oriented Mobility Assessment (POMA) limitations across eight groups by gender, nativity and age of migration among Mexican-origin elderly individuals residing in the southwestern United States. This broad examination takes into account the demographic heterogeneity of the U.S. Mexican-origin population and is especially timely given the rapid population aging that U.S. Latino and immigration subpopulations are experiencing. I argue that the life experiences of the foreign-born in the U.S. are likely to be shaped by the age and the period at which they immigrated to the United States. Results show that there are important differences by nativity and age of migration in the prevalence, ALE, and functional limitation trajectories of foreign-born Mexican elders. Female migrants are at a significant disadvantage in terms of IADL disability relative to U.S.-born women, particularly early and late life migrants. Conversely, mid and late life male migrants exhibit a health advantage in TLE and ADL disability compared to their U.S.-born counterparts. Furthermore, results indicate that mid and late life migrant males have lower functional disability at age 65, however have a steeper increase in POMA limitation over time relative to U.S.-born and early life migrants. These findings illustrate foreign-born Mexican elders are not a homogeneous group. While the majority of individuals in this cohort report a disability, there are large variations by nativity and for immigrants by age at migration. This issue merits special attention in the development of community-based long-term care programs to appropriately target the specific needs of different sub-groups of older individuals of Mexican-origin who are entering into their last decades of life.