How Sociopolitical Climate Impacts Latinx Immigrants

Project Team

Team profile by members of the Immigration Climate and Mental Health Outcomes of Latinx Immigrants project team

The overarching purpose of our project was to determine the impact of the U.S. sociopolitical climate from 2018 to 2020 on the mental and physical health outcomes of Latinx immigrants in the United States. Our team was led by Irene Felsman, Gabriela Nagy, and Allison Stafford, with Scott DeMarchi, Kate Evans, Eliazar Posada, Rushina Cholera, and Rosa Gonzalez-Guarda as collaborators. Using data from the SER (Salud/Health, Estres/Stress, y Resiliencia/Resiliency) Hispano Study (R01MD012249; PI: Rosa Gonzalez-Guarda), a longitudinal study of health among 391 young adult Latinx immigrants in North Carolina, we explored how the documentation status of Latinx young adult immigrants impacted their levels of stress and resiliency, as well as self-reported physical health. 

Within our larger Bass Connections team, we developed three sub-teams to investigate unique research questions:

  1. The Resiliency Team (Anna Holleman, Aasha Henderson, Mentor: Dr. Irene Felsman) found that there was a negative relationship between acculturative stress and resiliency among all Latinx immigrants in the SER Hispano study. Furthermore, they discovered that undocumented Latinx immigrants experienced higher levels of acculturative stress and also more resiliency than their documented counterparts.
  2. The Mental Health Team (Paulina Ruiz, Lupe Tarango-Garcia, Mentor: Dr. Gabriela Nagy) explored sub-types of acculturative stress experienced by participants in the SER Hispano study. They found that acculturative stress clustered in three sub-types: High acculturative stress, high parental and marital acculturative stress only, and low acculturative stress. Individuals who were undocumented were more likely to be in the high acculturative stress group, while those who had higher income, educational attainment, and English language use were in the low acculturative stress group.
  3. The Physical Health Team (Aneri Tanna, Karina Moreno Bueno, Mentor: Dr. Allison Stafford) explored potential mediators of the relationship between documentation status and physical health outcomes. They found that documented individuals reported better self-reported physical health than their undocumented counterparts. This relationship was explained by both immigration stress (i.e. stress related to lacking lawful status in the US) and healthcare stress (i.e. stress related to lacking access to affordable healthcare). 

“Our Bass Connections project has allowed our research team to expand our network of interdisciplinary academic and community collaborators, something that is critically needed when working to solve complex issues related to immigration policy. These collaborations are going to lay a strong foundation for the work of our team as we aim to translate what we have learned about the health of Latinx immigrants in the current immigration climate to community and policy settings. It has also been energizing to bring a new group of bright and curious students into our research team.” –Allison Stafford, Assistant Professor of Nursing

Our project demonstrated that documentation status is an important social driver of health for Latinx immigrants with consequences for acculturative stress, resiliency, and self-reported physical health. Our results also highlight the heterogeneity of the Latinx population and reinforce the importance of systems and organizations seeking to understand the variety of experiences and barriers that immigrant populations may face to inform programming. Additionally, through advocating for more inclusive immigration policies, we can promote health in immigrant communities. 

While the COVID-19 pandemic limited opportunities for our team to present findings as anticipated, we have been able to present our research at two virtual conferences in 2021: The Access for Immigrants Conference (Duke University School of Nursing) and the 42nd Annual Minority Health Conference (UNC Minority Student Caucus). Additionally, our team has three manuscripts describing these findings in progress to be submitted to peer reviewed journals.

Acculturative Stress, Resiliency and the Health of Latinx Immigrants in the Current U.S. Sociopolitical Climate

Poster by Allison McCord Stafford, Gabriela Nagy, Irene Felsman, Anna Holleman, Paulina Ruiz, Aasha Hendersn, Karina Moreno Bueno, Aneri Tanna and Guadalupe Tarango-Garcia

Research poster.