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Occupation health and stress among Latino immigrants.

Flynn MA
Work, Stress, and Health 2013: Protecting and Promoting Total Worker Health(TM), The 10th International Conference on Occupational Stress and Health, May 16-19, 2013, Los Angeles, California. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 2013 May; :1
Individuals of Latino descent now form the largest ethnic/racial minority group in the United States. From their analysis of 2010 Census data, Passel, Cohn and Lopez (2011) estimate that there are nearly 50.5 million Latinos living the United States, comprising 16.3% of the nation's population. The National Research Council (2003) estimates that by the year 2050, a quarter of the United States' population will be Latino, as will be 15% of the workforce. The Pew Hispanic Center (2011) estimates that 74% of Latinos are citizens and that 37% are foreign-born. By far, the largest nationality group of immigrants is from Mexico, accounting for almost 24 % of all Latinos living in the United States and 63% of all Latino immigrants to the United States (Pew Hispanic Center, 2009). Combined, immigrants from the nearby Central American countries of El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua make up approximately 5.5% of the total number of Latinos in the United States and nearly 15% of all Latinos immigrating to the United States. In the past, immigrants from Mexico and Central America tended to settle in areas of the United States already having large existing Latino populations. However, in recent decades there has been a significant change in settlement patterns. The Pew Hispanic Center (2005) reported that areas of the Midwest and Southeast that had not traditionally been settlement destinations had experienced explosive growth in their Latino populations. Compared to immigrants in "old settlement" areas, immigrants to "new settlement" areas face many challenges related to the lack of an established Latino community. Many of these challenges are related to the near total lack of a Spanish-speaking infrastructure among employers, social service agencies, school systems and law enforcement. Passel, Cohn and Lopez (2011) report that the most recent census data suggests that the rapid growth of Latino communities in new settlement areas is an ongoing trend. As a group, Latino workers suffer significantly higher rates of workplace mortalities (5.0 per 100,000) than all workers (4.0), non-Latino white workers (4.0) or non-Latino black workers (3.7). However, this occupational health disparity appears to be driven by nativity rather than ethnic/racial status. Native-born Latino workers have a mortality rate of 3.5 per 100,000 as compared to 5.9 for foreign-born Latinos. Non- fatal occupational injury and illness rates among Latinos are also elevated when compared to non-Latinos (Richardson, Ruser, & Suarez, 2003). Although work-related fatalities for all worker groups are trending downwards, there is evidence to suggest that the occupational health disparities experienced by Latino immigrant workers may actually be widening when compared to other workers in the United States. Above and beyond any work-related issues, simply adapting to life in a new country places many demands upon an immigrant. A new language must be learned, changes in business and social interactions must be mastered, and an immigrant's self-image, attitudes and beliefs related to a broad range of activities and events are challenged daily. The psychological tension that arises from adapting to these demands has been termed acculturative stress (Williams & Berry, 1991). Despite this many stressors, very low rates of psychiatric disorders have been found among Latino immigrants. One explanation for the lower rates is that only the most physically and mentally healthy individuals are willing to face the challenges inherent to immigration - the "healthy immigrant" effect. Another explanation is that it merely reflects lower base rates of psychiatric disorders in the immigrants' countries of origin (Vega, Sribney, Aguilar-Gaxiola, & Kolody, 2004. Regardless of etiology, these differences disappear within a generation following immigration, with the children and grandchildren of Latino immigrants suffering psychiatric disorders at the same rate at the general population of the United States (Alegria, Mulvaney-Day, Torres, Polio, Chao, & Canino, 2007). It also should be noted that these findings stand in sharp contrast to European studies which find significantly higher levels of psychiatric disorders among immigrants (Silveira & Ebrahim, 1998; Zolkowska, Cantor-Graae & McNeil, 2001) and which may persist several generations in their offspring (Hutchinson & Haasen, 2004). This presentation will review and discuss the literature related to this topic.
Occupational-health; Stress; Job-stress; Racial-factors; Mortality-rates; Total-Worker-Health
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Work, Stress, and Health 2013: Protecting and Promoting Total Worker Health(TM), The 10th International Conference on Occupational Stress and Health, May 16-19, 2013, Los Angeles, California
Page last reviewed: September 2, 2020
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division