Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health

, Volume 17, Issue 2, pp 389–399 | Cite as

The Effect of Acculturation on Obesity Among Foreign-Born Asians Residing in the United States

  • Hannah-Hanh D. Nguyen
  • Charlotte Smith
  • Grace L. Reynolds
  • Brenda Freshman
Original Paper


This study examined the relationship between acculturation and obesity in foreign-born Asians residing in the United States, using the 2009 California Health Interview Survey secondary data (N = 2,871). Two series of proxies and/or behavioral variables were used to measure level of acculturation: (a) length of US residency (years and percent of life) and (b) English language use and proficiency. It was hypothesized that acculturation measured with both proxies would positively predict obesity among foreign-born Asian adults who live in the United States. Results did not support the relationship between obesity and residency length, and greater English use and proficiency seemed to predict lower obesity. However, additional exploratory analysis was performed for each Asian ethnicity and the results showed that the hypothesized links were partly supported for Filipino subgroup, but the links for Vietnamese subgroup were in the opposite direction of the hypotheses and inconsistent with previous literature.


Asians Obesity Acculturation Foreign-born Asians Foreign-born Asian immigrants 


  1. 1.
    World Health Organization. WHO: Global database on body mass index. 2011 (cited 2012 May 1).
  2. 2.
    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Chronic disease—obesity at a glance. 2011 (cited 2011 Oct 26).
  3. 3.
    Asian American Alliance. Spread of obesity among Asian Americans. 2011 (cited 2011).
  4. 4.
    Unger JB, et al. Acculturation, physical activity, and fast-food consumption among Asian-American and Hispanic adolescents. J Community Health. 2004;29(6):467–81.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Halting the epidemic by making health easier at a glance. 2011 (cited 2012).
  6. 6.
    Weight-control Information Network. Overweight and obesity statistics. 2010 (cited 2012).
  7. 7.
    Office of the Surgeon General. The surgeon general’s call to action to prevent and decrease overweight and obesity. 2007 (cited 2012).
  8. 8.
    National Institutes of Health. Overweight and obesity statistics. 2011 (cited 2011).
  9. 9.
    American Cancer Society. The obesity-cancer connection and what we can do about it. 2013 (cited 2014 March 13).
  10. 10.
    World Health Organization. WHO obesity and overweight. 2012 (cited 2012).
  11. 11.
    The Economist. Obesity rates: fat of the lands. 2010 (cited 2012 May 1).
  12. 12.
    Development, O.f.E.C.a. Obesity and the economics of prevention: Fit not fat. 2010 (cited 2014 March 13).
  13. 13.
    Wang Y, et al. Will all Americans become overweight or obese? Estimating the progression and cost of the U.S. obesity epidemic. Obesity. 2008;16(10):2323–30.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Summary health statistics for U.S. adults: 2011. Table 31. 2012 (cited 2014).
  15. 15.
    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Health characteristics of the Asian adult population of the United States, 2004–2006: Table 2. 2008 (cited 2014).
  16. 16.
    Satia-Abouta J, et al. Dietary acculturation: applications to nutrition research and dietetics. J Am Diet Assoc. 2002;102:1105–18.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Abraido-Lanza AF, Armbrister AN, Florez KR. Toward a theory driven model of acculturation in public health research. Am J Public Health. 2006;96(8):1342–6.CrossRefPubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Gordon M. Assimilation in American: theory and reality, in notable selections in race and ethnicity, A.A.E. Baker, editor. Dushkin: Guilford, CT; 1995. p. 91–101.Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Berry JW. Immigration, acculturation, and adptation. Appl Psychol Int Rev. 1997;46(1):5–33.Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Lee L, Nguyen H, Tsui J. Interview language: a proxy measure for acculturation among Asian Americans in a population-based survey. J Immigr Minor Health. 2011;13(2):244–52.CrossRefPubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Dey A, Lucas J. Physician and mental health characteristics of U.S. and foreign-born adults: United States, 1998–2003. Adv Data. 2006;369:1–19.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Popkin BM, Udry RJ. Adolescent obesity increases significantly in second and third generation U.S. immigrants: the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. J Nutr. 1998;128:701–6.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Novotny RD, et al. U.S. acculturation, food intake, and obesity among Asian-Pacific hotel workers. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2009;109(10):1712–8.Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    Wu-Tso P, Yeh IL, Tam CF. Comparisons of dietary intake in young and old Asian Americans: a two-generation study. Nutr Res. 1995;15(10):1445–62.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Liou D, Bauer K. Exploratory investigation of obesity risk and prevention in Chinese Americans. J Nutr Educ Behav. 2007;39(3):131–41.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    Negy C, Woods DJ. The importance of acculturation in understanding research with Hispanic Americans. Hisp J Behav Sci. 1992;14(2):224–47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Cabassa LJ. Measuring acculturation: where we are and where we need to go. Hisp J Behav Sci. 2003;25:125–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. 28.
    Antecol BK. Unhealthy assimilation: why do immigrants converge to American health status levels? Demography. 2006;43(2):337–60.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    Lauderdale RP. Body mass index in a US national sample of Asian Americans: effects of nativity, years since immigration and socioeconomic status. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 2000;24(9):1188–94.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  30. 30.
    Kaushal N. Adversities of acculturation? Prevalence of obesity among immigrants. J Health Econ. 2009;18(3):291–303.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. 31.
    Choi J, Thomas M. Predictive factors of acculturation attitudes and social support among Asian immigrants in the USA. Int J Soc Welf. 2009;18(1):76–84.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. 32.
    Wang S, Quan J, Fernandez A. Asian Americans and obesity in California: a protective effect of biculturalism. J Immigr Minor Health. 2011;13(2):276–83.CrossRefPubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  33. 33.
    Wang Y, Beydoun MA. The obesity epidemic in the United States—gender, age, socioeconomic, racial/ethnic, and geographic characteristics: a systematic review and meta-regression analysis. Epidemiol Rev. 2007;29(1):6–28.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  34. 34.
    Sheu H, Bridging the international gap when counseling Aian and Asian American men. In: Liu MW, Iwamoto KD, Chae MH, editors. Culturally responsive counseling with Asian American men. Routledge Taylor and Francis Group: New York, NY; 2010. p. 299–317.Google Scholar
  35. 35.
    Iwamasa GY. Acculturation of Asian American university students. Assessment. 1996;3(1):99–102.Google Scholar
  36. 36.
    Yates A, Edman J, Aruguete M. Ethnic differences in BMI and body/self-dissatisfaction among Whites, Asian subgroups, Pacific Islanders, and African Americans. J Adolesc Health. 2004;34(4):300–7.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  37. 37.
    Gomez SL, et al. Immigration and acculturation in relation to health and health-related risk factors among specific Asian subgroups in a health maintenance organization. J Inf. 2004;94(1):1977–84.Google Scholar
  38. 38.
    Ea EE, et al. Job satisfaction and acculturation among Filipino registered nurses. J Nurs Scholarsh. 2008;40(1):46–51.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  39. 39.
    Salant T, Lauderdale DS. Measuring culture: a critical review of acculturation and health in Asian immigrant populations. Soc Sci Med. 2003;57(1):71–90.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  40. 40.
    Misra A. Revisions to cutoffs of body mass index to define overweight and obesity are needed for the Asian-ethnic groups. Int J Obes. 2003;27:1294–6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hannah-Hanh D. Nguyen
    • 1
  • Charlotte Smith
    • 2
  • Grace L. Reynolds
    • 2
  • Brenda Freshman
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Management and Industrial Relations, Shidler College of BusinessUniversity of Hawaii at ManoaHonoluluUSA
  2. 2.Health Care Administration DepartmentCalifornia State University Long BeachLong BeachUSA

Personalised recommendations