Immigration to the US may improve your standard of living but it can also cause you to light up a cigarette more often, a new study suggests.
The study from sociologists at Rice University, Duke University and the University of Southern California, focused on how gender differences in smoking behaviour are shaped by aspects of acculturation and the original decision to migrate.
"We know that after migrants come to the US, their health behaviour and health status change the longer they live in the US," said Bridget Gorman, chair and professor of sociology at Rice and the study's lead author.
"Our study examined how time spent in the US, along with other aspects reflective of acculturation to the US, relates to smoking behaviour among Asian and Latino migrants," said Gorman.
The study found that smoking prevalence among Asian immigrant men was more than four times that of Asian immigrant women (30.4 per cent and 7.1 per cent, respectively); among Latino immigrants, men's smoking prevalence was more than twice that of women's (29.5 per cent and 12.6 per cent, respectively).
For smoking frequency, Asian men on average smoked 2.5 more cigarettes per day than Asian women, compared with 1.5 more cigarettes per day that Latino men smoked than Latino women.
In addition, their analyses also showed that smoking increases with duration of US residence among Asian immigrants (both prevalence and frequency) and among Latino immigrants (frequency only).
However, the study also found that independent of time spent in the US, "immigrants who form strong connections to the US through English-language proficiency and citizenship acquisition benefit in terms of reduced smoking."
Gorman said this may be because the stresses associated with adapting to the US have declined; but since both English-language proficiency and citizenship are associated with higher socio-economic standing, this might also indicate that smoking is lower among the most economically well-off migrants.
Gorman also noted that although there "tends to be an uptick in unhealthy behaviours like smoking after migration, patterns differ across ethnic groups and between men and women. In particular, women's smoking behaviour tends to increase more after migration to the US than men."
Gorman said the uptick in smoking among women may be due to differences in smoking stigma that exist for women in Latin America and especially Asia.
The study was published in the journal Social Science & Medicine.