Among Mexican-Americans, those who are most integrated into U.S. culture appear less healthy and are more likely to require resources to manage their conditions than more recent, less-integrated immigrants, a new study suggests.

The finding holds especially true for Mexican-American men, said researchers from Rice University, Duke University and the University of Colorado, Denver.

Among the newly immigrated, women had poorer health than men, according to the study, which looked at conditions including hypertension, heart disease and diabetes.

“This could be, in part, because men are more likely than women to migrate to the U.S. in search of employment — often in physically demanding jobs — and at younger ages,” study researcher Bridget Gorman, associate professor of sociology at Rice University, said in a statement.

The finding opposes the commonly held belief that new immigrants are most taxing on the U.S. health care system, the researchers said.

Researchers looked at the health of Mexican immigrants between 1998 and 2007 reported in the National Health Interview Survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

While men who'd just arrived tended to be healthier than women who had recently immigrated, their health declined at a faster pace as they adapted to U.S. culture, the study found.

As Mexican-American men became more assimilated, their diabetes risk increased, according to the study, though diabetes status for women was unrelated to their level of assimilation.

Researchers found the difference between the sexes in terms of how they used health care was a major driving force behind the men's greater likelihood for declining health. Women were more likely to use the health-care system because of their roles as family caretakers, researchers said, and were more likely to be in contact with doctors and be aware of their ailments.

But men — especially those who immigrated more recently — were less likely to use the health care system and therefore may not have realized they were sick, researchers said.

“This highlights the necessity of improving access to and utilization of medical-care services among men,” Gorman said. “Not only would this help address an important unmet health need for many men, it would also permit health researchers to more accurately assess and forecast medical-care need and use among residents.”

The study was published online this week in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior.

Pass it on: Recent Mexican immigrants to the United States appear healthier than Mexican-Americans who have been in the U.S for a while.

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