The Healthy Immigrant Effect and Aging in the United States and Other Western Countries

Kyriakos S. Markides, Sunshine Rote

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

130 Scopus citations


The rising number of immigrants to the United States and other western countries has been accompanied by rising interest in the characteristics of immigrants including their mortality risk and health status. In general, immigrants to the United States, Canada, and Australia enjoy a health advantage over the native populations, which has been coined the healthy immigrant effect. The purpose of this review is to summarize findings on aging and the immigrant health effect in the 3 most common immigrant destinations the United States, Canada, Australia, as well as in Europe. Much of the research in the United States has focused on the so-called Hispanic Paradox or the favorable health of Hispanics relative to non-Hispanic whites despite lower average socioeconomic status as well as other risk factors, with recent research beginning to pay attention to dietary and genetic factors. In all 3 countries, there is evidence of a health convergence of immigrants relative to the native-born population over approximately 10-20 years. By the time they reach old age, immigrants experience high rates of comorbidity and disability. Immigrant health selection appears to be the key reason explaining the immigrant health advantage. Immigrants to Europe also appear to be health selected but not as consistently as in the United States, Canada, and Australia. Immigrant enclaves appear to confer health advantages in the United States among older Hispanics but appear to have negative consequences in Europe. More attention needs to be given to the health and health care needs of the rising numbers of refugees to Europe as well as refugees in the Middle East, Africa, and elsewhere.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)205-214
Number of pages10
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 14 2019


  • Demography
  • Hispanic health
  • Immigration
  • Mexican American

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gerontology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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