Interest in studying the impact of acculturation on immigrant health has increased in tandem with the growth of the Latino population in the United States. Linear assimilation models continue to dominate public health research despite the availability of more complex…
tes, and language use) provide constricted measures of acculturation, the rare use of multidimensional acculturation measures and models has inhibited a more comprehensive understanding of the association between specific components of acculturation and particular health outcomes. A public health perspective that incorporates the roles of structural and cultural forces in acculturation may help identify mechanisms underlying links between acculturation and health among Latinos.
BECAUSE OF ITS ORIENTATION in and emphasis on health disparities, the field of public health should pay particular attention to the impact of acculturation on the health of Latinos. Latinos are currently the largest ethnic minority group in the United States, numbering 35.3 million persons and comprising 12.5% of the country’s population.1 Although the percentage varies across the different Latino groups, more than two thirds (65.2%) of Latinos (excluding Puerto Ricans) living in the United States are foreign-born.2 This large proportion of immigrants illustrates, in part, the importance of considering acculturation in research on the health of Latinos.
Although definitions vary, acculturation is broadly described as the process by which individuals adopt the attitudes, values, customs, beliefs, and behaviors of another culture.3,4 The process of acculturation presents numerous challenges and life changes that could potentially benefit or adversely affect the health of immigrants as well as subsequent US-born generations. Therefore, it is important to consider acculturation processes when studying the health of all Latinos in the United States.
In the social and behavioral sciences, there is a rich theoretical literature on acculturation; however, models from this literature have not been applied to much public health research. Theoretically grounded studies of acculturation could provide effective analytic tools for current efforts to address health disparities among Latinos. Because ...
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