Overeating and binge eating among immigrants in the United States: new terrain for the healthy immigrant hypothesis

  • Christopher P. Salas-WrightEmail author
  • Michael G. Vaughn
  • Daniel P. Miller
  • Hyeouk Chris Hahm
  • Carolina Scaramutti
  • Mariana Cohen
  • Jorge Delva
  • Seth J. Schwartz
Original Paper



Prior research indicates that, compared to individuals born in the United States (US), immigrants are less likely to experience mental health and inhibitory control problems. However, our understanding of overeating and binge eating—both related to mental health and inhibitory control—among immigrants in the US remains limited. Drawing from a large national study, we report the prevalence of overeating and binge eating among immigrants vis-à-vis the US-born.


The data source used for the present study is the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC-III, 2012–2013), a nationally representative survey of 36,309 civilian, non-institutionalized adults ages 18 and older in the US. Logistic regression was employed to examine the relationship between immigrant status and key outcomes.


The prevalence of any (immigrants = 7.8%, US-born = 17.0%) and recurrent overeating (immigrants = 2.9%, US-born = 5.3%) was lower among immigrants than US-born individuals. Among those reporting recurrent overeating, the prevalence of binge eating with loss of control was comparable among immigrant (37.2%) and US-born participants (39.9%), in general. However, stratified analyses revealed that risk of binge eating with loss of control was lower among immigrant women compared to US-born women (AOR 0.54, 95% CI 0.29–0.98).


Findings from the present study provide clear results that immigrants are substantially less likely to overeat as compared to US-born individuals and that, among women but not men, immigrant status is associated with lower risk of binge eating with loss of control.


Immigrants Overeating Binge eating Acculturation Mental health Impulsivity 



Research reported in this publication was supported by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) under Award Number K01AA026645. The research was also supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) under Award Number R25 DA030310. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of NIAAA, NIDA, or the NIH.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

On behalf of all authors, the corresponding author states that there is no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christopher P. Salas-Wright
    • 1
    Email author
  • Michael G. Vaughn
    • 2
    • 3
  • Daniel P. Miller
    • 1
  • Hyeouk Chris Hahm
    • 1
  • Carolina Scaramutti
    • 4
  • Mariana Cohen
    • 1
  • Jorge Delva
    • 1
  • Seth J. Schwartz
    • 4
  1. 1.School of Social WorkBoston UniversityBostonUSA
  2. 2.School of Social WorkSaint Louis UniversitySt. LouisUSA
  3. 3.Yonsei UniversitySeoulRepublic of Korea
  4. 4.Department of Public Health SciencesUniversity of MiamiMiamiUSA

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