For Latinos, the Stress of Discrimination Imperils Health
Latinos in the U.S. are at higher risk for health problems believed to be associated with the stress that comes from discrimination. The vilification of Hispanics and Latinos poses health challenges for Latinos, one that exacerbates stress in the workplace and undermines the ability of English-dominant Latinos to advance in their careers.
Excerpt from Louis Nevaer’s new book, Speak Business Spanish like an Executive:
For reasons that are not well understood, Latinos are at higher risk for certain chronic diseases than non-Hispanics. There is speculation that the unconscious stress associated with living in the Hispanic diaspora in the U.S. contributes to increased vulnerability. Perhaps the communal traumata Latinos experience through the vilification of and hostility towards Hispanics by non-Hispanic Americans in the U.S. are factors. No one knows. What is not in dispute, however, is that Hispanics are at higher risk for:
Diabetes: “For Latinos, acculturation was related to increased education, and more acculturated Latinos were less likely to have experiential models of the disease [diabetes],” Catherine Chesla et al. wrote in “Differences in Personal Models among Latinos and European Americans.” This means that Hispanics, Latinos and Latins with lower educational attainment—and the accompanying incomes—are at greater risk for diabetes. The estimated costs to American business is a staggering $174 billion a year in health care costs, and the problem is so acute there is an organization dedicated to helping employers develop strategies to deal with diabetes in the workplace: diabetesatwork.org. The costs for non-Hispanic employees are higher, reflecting both a higher incidence of diabetes and the fact that Latinos, more so than Hispanics or Latins, acquire diabetes at an earlier age.
Obesity: The American population is experiencing an epidemic of obesity and related health issues associated with being overweight. Hispanics, Latinos, and Latins, in fact, are among the segments of the population that are at higher risk for obesity. It is believed that the stress related to acculturation contributes to the coping mechanisms within the Hispanic diaspora that lead to higher rates of obesity. “Among Latinos, acculturationhas been associated with obesity risk, suboptimal dietary choicesincluding lack of breast-feeding, low intake of fruits and vegetables,a higher consumption of fats and artificial drinks containinghigh levels of refined sugar, smoking, and alcohol consumption,” Rafael Pérez-Escamilla and Predrag Putnik reported in the Journal of Nutrition. These findings are confirmed by other studies. This chronic condition affects the overall health costs of every organization, and as Hispanics, Latinos, and Latins increase their presence in the American workforce, preventing obesity among employees becomes a more urgent management task.
Alzheimer’s: Although a genetic predisposition is not suspected, for the Hispanic diaspora there is a higher incidence of Alzheimer’s. Several “factors, many linked to low income or cultural dislocation, may put Hispanics at greater risk for dementia, including higher rates of diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, stroke and possibly hypertension,” Pam Belluck reported in the New York Times. “Less education may make Hispanic immigrants more vulnerable to those medical conditions and to dementia because scientists say education may increase the brain’s plasticity or ability to compensate for symptoms. And some researchers cite as risk factors stress from financial hardship or cultural adjustment.” In this report, public health officials are studying factors that may be responsible for the higher incidence among Hispanics: “We are concerned that the Latino population may have the highest amount of risk factors and prevalence, in comparison to the other cultures,” María Carrillo, director of medical and scientific relations at the Alzheimer’s Association, explains. Is there subconscious stress of living in the Hispanic diaspora that increases the risk factors associated with degenerative cognitive conditions? That appears to be the case.
Excerpted with permission from pages 212-214.
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