Immigration Status, Visa Types, and Body Weight Among New Immigrants in the United States

Ming Chin Yeh, Nina S. Parikh, Alison E. Megliola, Elizabeth A. Kelvin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: To investigate the relationship between immigration-related factors and body mass index (BMI) among immigrants. Design: Secondary analyses of cross-sectional survey data. Setting: The New Immigrant Survey (NIS-2003) contains data from in-person or telephone interviews between May and November 2003, with a probability sample of immigrants granted legal permanent residency in the United States. Participants: A total of 8573 US immigrants. Measures: The NIS-2003 provided data on sociobehavioral domains, including migration history, education, employment, marital history, language, and health-related behaviors. The visa classifications are as follows: (1) family reunification, (2) employment, (3) diversity, (4) refugee, and (5) legalization. Analysis: Nested multivariable linear regression analysis was used to estimate the independent relationships between BMI and the variables of interest. Results: Overall, 32.6% of participants were overweight and 11.3% were obese (mean BMI = 25). Participants who were admitted to the United States with employment, refugee, or legalization visas compared with those who came with family reunion visas had a significantly higher BMI (P <.001, P <.001, P <.01, respectively). Duration in the United States predicted BMI, with those immigrants in the United States longer having a higher BMI (P <.001). Conclusion: Our findings suggest that immigrants who obtain particular visa categorizations and immigration status might have a higher risk of being overweight or obese. Immigrants need to be targeted along with the rest of the US population for weight management interventions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)771-778
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Journal of Health Promotion
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2018


  • acculturation
  • immigrants
  • obesity
  • overweight
  • visa

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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