How Have You Been? or ¿Como estás?: Does Language of Interview Influences Self-Rated Health Among Hispanic Subgroups?


This paper reports language differences in poor/fair self-rated health (SRH) among adults from six Hispanic groups in the United States. Data are from the cross-sectional 1997–2013 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS). The total sample of Hispanic adults with valid information for the variables considered in the study (n = 156,374) included Mexican-Americans (Mex-Am; n = 43,628), Mexicans (n = 55,057), Puerto Ricans (n = 14,631), Cubans (n = 8,041), Dominicans (from Dominican Republican, n = 4,359) and Other Hispanics (n = 30,658). We compared percentage of the population that reported poor/fair SRH among Hispanic individuals by language of interview and across origins using bivariate tests of association. Multivariable logistic regression analysis was used to study the odds of reporting poor/fair SRH based on language among the overall population and each group. Among the six Hispanic origins Puerto Ricans (15.92%), Cubans (16.36%) and Dominicans (15.32%) reported poor/fair SRH at higher levels than the overall sample (12.32%). In the logistic regression model adjusting potential covariates, those interviewed in Spanish were at higher odds of reporting poor/fair SRH than those interviewed in English (OR = 1.47, p < 0.0001). In the stratified analysis, Mexican–Americans were the only group where language of interview did not affect the odds of reporting poor/fair SRH. There are differences by Hispanic origin for reporting poor/fair SRH, and also by language of interview. Achieving accurate measurement of health status among Hispanics is a concern for all researchers, in particular those who study differences in health status by race/ethnicity in the United States. Future, research should account for Hispanic background and language of interviews.

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This is a revised version of a paper presented at the annual meeting of the Population Association of America, March 31-April 2, 2016, Washington, D.C.; we appreciate the suggestions of attendees of the meeting. We thank Dr. Sarah E. Patterson for her feedback on a previous version of this article. We also thank the reviewers and editor of the JOIH for the reviews and suggestions. Alexis R. Santos-Lozada was supported by the Population Research Institute (PRI) at the Pennsylvania State University, which is supported by an infrastructure grant by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (P2CHD041025). Matthew J. Martínez was supported by a Postdoctoral Fellowship through Spatial Structures in the Social Sciences (S4) and the Population Studies and Training Center (PSTC) at Brown University. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the funding agencies.

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Correspondence to Alexis R. Santos-Lozada.

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Santos-Lozada, A.R., Martinez, M.J. How Have You Been? or ¿Como estás?: Does Language of Interview Influences Self-Rated Health Among Hispanic Subgroups?. J Immigrant Minority Health 20, 766–775 (2018).

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  • Hispanic health
  • Self-rated health
  • Language
  • Regression
  • Ethnic disparities