CHAMPAIGN, Illinois – Hispanics and Latinos in the United States who perceive themselves to have higher social status are more likely to have ideal markers of cardiovascular health, according to a new study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.
Principal author Lissette Piedra, Professor of social work at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, said this is the first study to suggest that subjective markers of social status may have stronger effects on the cardiovascular health of Hispanic and Latino populations in the United States than objective markers such as levels of employment, education and income.
The study involved more than 15,300 Hispanic and Latino adults living in Chicago, Miami, New York and San Diego. More than three-quarters of the participants, aged 18 to 74, were born in other countries, mainly Mexico and Cuba.
“Migration creates multiple socio-economic frames of reference that influence health and behavioral outcomes but remain undetectable by objective measures of social status,” Piedra said. “Latinos who have held professional positions such as teachers or lawyers in their home country may be prevented from finding similar work in the United States due to language or credential issues. For them, the experience of migration coincides with a sense of diminished social status.
Conversely, people who migrate from Latin American communities with extremely low wages may get low-paying jobs compared to the general population of the United States, but their incomes can be many times that of their home country, which raises their perception of their social status. , says Piedra.
Study participants were asked to rank on a 10-point social scale compared to other people in the United States. On average, the participants’ self-rated social status was 4.4.
The objective social status of participants was assessed based on their level of education, annual income, and employment status – full-time, part-time or unemployed. About 42% of participants lived in households with an annual income of $ 20,000 or less. Almost half – 49% – were unemployed. The majority – 60% – had a high school diploma or less.
Their cardiovascular health was rated as ideal, intermediate, or poor based on the American Heart Association’s Life’s Simple 7, healthy lifestyle modifiable factors including body mass index, blood pressure, food intake, smoking, and cholesterol, glucose and physical activity levels.
According to the study, less than half of the participants achieved ideal scores on four or more of the seven metrics.
However, people who thought their social status was higher were more likely to have ideal scores on body mass index, physical activity, and fasting blood sugar.
Each percentage point increase in subjective social status was associated with a higher overall cardiovascular health score. The effect persisted even after researchers adjusted objective social status, demographic and health factors.
Piedra said the findings provide important information on the effects of perceived social status on the cardiovascular health of Hispanics and Latinos and may be useful in designing interventions that elevate these individuals’ sense of social status and empowerment.
The co-authors of the study were social work professors Flavia CD Andrade, Rosalba Hernandez and Karen M. Tabb, all from U. of I. Professor of Social Medicine Krista M. Perreira and Professor of Biostatistics Jianwen Cai, both of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; and psychology professors Linda C. Gallo, Sheila F. Castaneda, and Dr. Gregory A. Talavera, all of San Diego State University.
Other co-authors were neuroscience professor Hector M. Gonzalez, University of California, San Diego; Sara Gonzalez, professor of epidemiology and population health, Albert Einstein College of Medicine; Dr Martha L. Daviglus and research specialist Jingsong Chen, the two U. of I. College of Medicine, Chicago; and Ramon A. Durazo-Arvizu, director of the nucleus of biostatistics and data analysis, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.
The research was supported by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute; the National Center for Minority Health and Health Disparities; and the National Institute for Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, among other organizations.