Testing Immigrant Social Ties Explanations for Latino Health Paradoxes: The Case of Social Support and Depression Symptoms

Edna A. Viruell-fuentes, Flavia C. D. Andrade

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We tested the immigrant social ties hypothesis for Latino health outcomes by examining whether positive social support from, and negative interactions with, spouses/partners, friends/relatives, and children accounted for the differences in depression symptoms between immigrant and U.S.-born Latinos. We analyzed data from the 2001–2003 Chicago Community Adult Health Study. Immigrants and U.S.-born Latinos reported similar levels of positive support from spouses/partners and children, but the U.S.-born reported higher levels of positive support from friends/relatives. At the same time, U.S.-born Latinos reported higher levels of negative interactions with friends/relatives, spouses/partners, and children. For the full sample and the sample with children, U.S.-born Latinos show higher levels of depression symptoms when compared to immigrant Latinos, even after controlling for sociodemographic characteristics. However, no differences on depression symptoms were found when the sample was restricted to married participants. Negative interactions with friends/relatives accounted for the nativity differences in mental health among Latinos in Chicago. None of the other sources of positive social support or negative hassles helped explain the mental health advantage observed among immigrants in the full sample and the sample with children. Our study shows that availability and quality of social support among immigrant and U.S.- born Latinos is multifaceted, and that explanations in the literature for immigrant and Latino health outcomes require deeper examination and more nuanced theorizing.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)77-92
JournalJournal of Latino/Latin American Studies
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016


  • social support
  • depression
  • immigration
  • Latinos
  • immigrant social ties
  • hypothesis
  • Latino health
  • immigrant health paradox


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