Disparities in the Prevalence and Correlates of Disability in Older Immigrants in the USA: a Systematic Review of the Literature

  • Manka NkimbengEmail author
  • Joycelyn Cudjoe
  • Ruth-Alma Turkson-Ocran
  • Yvonne Commodore-Mensah
  • Roland J. ThorpeJr
  • Sarah L. Szanton



Disability in older adults leads to poor quality of life, is costly for the health system, and is a risk for mortality. Little is known about disability in older immigrants to the USA.


To synthesize the evidence on the prevalence and factors associated with disability in older adult immigrants.


We conducted searches in PubMed, Embase, Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature (CINAHL), and Scopus. Disability was defined as difficulty in performing basic or instrumental activities of daily living. Older adult was defined as 65 years and older. Immigrant status was defined as someone born outside of the USA.


Eighteen articles met the inclusion criteria. Seven studied Hispanic/Latino immigrants, six studied Asian immigrants, four studied diverse older immigrant samples, and one studied European immigrants. Prevalence of disability ranged from 2 to 49% in Asians and 3 to 58.1% in Hispanic/Latinos. In a diverse sample of immigrants, the prevalence of disability was 19.3%. Correlates of disability included female gender, low income, limited education, single status, migration in late adulthood, obesity, arthritis, and diabetes. Factors protective against disability in older adult immigrants were acculturation, migrating at a younger age, exercise, alcohol intake, and church attendance.


Disability prevalence was generally lower in Asian immigrants compared to Hispanic/Latino immigrants. Identification of the precise rates and factors associated with disability in older immigrants can inform health interventions for this population.


Immigrants Older adults Disability Activities of daily living Instrumental activities of daily living 



This publication was made possible by the Johns Hopkins Institute for Clinical and Translational Research (ICTR) which is funded in part by Grant Number TL1 TR001078 from the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS), a component of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and NIH Roadmap for Medical Research. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official view of the Johns Hopkins ICTR, NCATS, or NIH.


Ruth-Alma Turkson-Ocran was supported by training grants under the National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR) and National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) of the National Institutes of Health under award numbers T32NR012704 and 3T32DK062707, respectively.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants performed by any of the authors.


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Copyright information

© W. Montague Cobb-NMA Health Institute 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Johns Hopkins School of NursingBaltimoreUSA
  2. 2.Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public HealthBaltimoreUSA

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