Immigrants and mental disorders in the united states: New evidence on the healthy migrant hypothesis

Christopher P. Salas-Wright, Michael G. Vaughn, Trenette C. Goings, Daniel P. Miller, Seth J. Schwartz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Objectives: Despite experiencing migration-related stress and social adversity, immigrants are less likely to experience an array of adverse behavioral and health outcomes. Guided by the healthy migrant hypothesis, which proposes that this paradox can be explained in part by selection effects, we examine the prevalence and comorbidity of mental disorders among immigrants to the United States (US). Methods: Findings are based on the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (2012–2013), a nationally representative survey of 36,309 adults in the US. Results: Immigrants were significantly less likely than US-born individuals to meet criteria for a lifetime disorder (AOR = 0.63, 95% CI = 0.57–0.71) or to report parental history of psychiatric problems. Compared to US-born individuals, the prevalence of mental disorders was not significantly different among individuals who immigrated as children; however, differences were observed for immigrants who arrived as adolescents (ages 12–17) or as adults (age 18+). Discussion: Consistent with the healthy migrant hypothesis, immigrants are less likely to come from families with psychiatric problems, and those who migrate after childhood—when selection effects are most likely to be observed—have the lowest levels of psychiatric morbidity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)438-445
Number of pages8
JournalPsychiatry Research
StatePublished - Sep 2018


  • Acculturation
  • Immigrants
  • Mental health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry

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