Border Health in the Shadow of the Hispanic Paradox: Issues in the Conceptualization of Health Disparities in Older Mexican Americans Living in the Southwest

Jennifer J. Salinas, Dejun Su, Soham Al Snih

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Mexican Americans have demonstrated lower than what would be expected mortality rates and disease prevalence, given their overrepresentation among those living in poverty. However, Mexican Americans living along the US-Mexico border have been documented as carrying a higher burden of disease and disability that seems to contradict or at least challenge evidence in support of a "Hispanic Paradox". The purpose of this paper is to evaluate the concept of border health as it relates to the conceptualization and measurement of health outcomes in older Mexican Americans living in the Southwest United States. Data for this study comes from the Hispanic Established Populations for the Epidemiologic Studies of the Elderly (Hispanic EPESE) wave 1 and mortality files up to wave 5. Border residence was determined using La Paz Agreement county and distance from a port of entry classifications. Statistical analysis was conducted to assess border versus non-border differences in cause of death, disability, disease prevalence and premature mortality. Adjusted regression models were used to predict cause of death, disability and disease-free life expectancy and premature mortality (i.e. occurring before life expectancy). Interaction models between border/non-border and median income were also performed. Finally, distance from the US-Mexico border was used to determine the effect of distance to the US-Mexico border in border-residing participants. The findings from this study indicate that participants in the HEPESE were more likely to be alive at Wave 5 if they resided in a border county, however more likely to transition into ADL disability status. These findings were not explained by behaviors, duration in the US or sociocultural characteristics of where they lived. Additionally, Hispanic EPESE subjects that lived in the border region were more likely to have died from old age and were less likely to be lost to follow up. Interaction models revealed significant effects for diabetes as a cause of death. Moreover, distance from a US-Mexico port of entry was significant for being alive at wave 5 for border-residing participants. Relative to non-border residing participants, border residing Mexican Americans in the Hispanic EPESE did not carry a uniformly higher burden of disease, however had a significantly greater odds of 10 year survival. These findings bring up issues of measurement and the importance of geographic location when it comes to evaluating disease burden and mortality in Mexican Americans.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)251-266
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Cross-Cultural Gerontology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2013


  • Disability
  • Disease prevalence
  • Hispanics
  • Survival
  • US Mexico border

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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