The role of cultural assimilation in Hispanic health behavior has received little empirical examination. Prior studies have operationalized assimilation primarily in terms of language preference and have obtained weak or no effects. We interviewed 603 elderly Hispanic women residing in Los Angeles to evaluate the usefulness of cultural factors as predictors of preventive health behavior (e.g., physical examination, screening for breast cancer) more rigorously. Factor analysis of responses yielded four dimensions of cultural assimilation: 'language preference', 'country of birth', 'contact with homeland', and 'attitudes about children's friends'. After controlling for education and age, no dimension of assimilation associated strongly or consistently with health behavior. Of the four dimensions, use of English language associated most closely with increased screening, although most of the effects for language were small in magnitude. These findings, coupled with those of other studies, strongly suggest that cultural factors may have little impact on the health behavior of Hispanics. Access to and availability of services, affective reactions toward screening, and sociodemographic factors are stronger determinants of Hispanic health practices.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health