Deportation worries elevate Latinas’ risk of hypertension

Worries about deportation could be contributing to worse heart health among Latina women in the U.S., according to work published Nov. 27 in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

In the journal, Jacqueline M. Torres, PhD, MPH, and colleagues said that while recent studies have established links between deportation worries and higher rates of depression, anxiety, systolic blood pressure, pulse pressure, waist circumference and BMI, none have looked at the long-term impacts of that stress on CVD outcomes.

 “This research is critical, given that longitudinal blood pressure or weight outcomes have been shown to predict risk for subsequent CVD morbidity and mortality above and beyond measures captured at a single point in time,” Torres, of the University of California, San Francisco, and co-authors wrote. “Moreover, while one cross-sectional analysis found no association between deportation worry and prevalent hypertension, deportation worry could have adverse impacts on incident outcomes that may develop over longer periods of time.”

Torres and her team drew data from the CHAMACOS (Center for the Health Assessment of Mothers and Children of Salinas) registry, a longitudinal cohort study based in Salinas Valley, Calif., where there’s a large Latino farmworker population, for their analysis. A group of 572 women, primarily of Mexican origin, were included in the study.

Using both linear mixed models and Cox proportional hazards models, the researchers examined associations between women’s self-reported deportation worry and trajectories of blood pressure, BMI, waist circumference and incident hypertension. At baseline, nearly half of women—48%—reported feeling “a lot” of deportation worry, while 24% reported “moderate” worry and 28% reported “not too much” worry.

Torres et al. found that, as they predicted, higher worry at baseline was associated with nonlinear systolic BP and mean arterial pressure trajectories. Women who worried most about their immigration status saw a faster initial increase in their systolic figures, followed by a faster decrease.

The authors said there was “weak” evidence of a link between deportation worry and diastolic BP, but no connection between worry and BMI, waist circumference or pulse pressure trajectories. Among 408 women without baseline hypertension, worrying “a lot” or “moderately” about deportation was linked to a 2.17-fold and 2.48-fold increased risk of incident hypertension, respectively.

Torres and colleagues said worrying about deportation might negatively impact a person’s CV health by way of increased risks for anxiety, depression and poor sleep. People worried about their immigration status might also avoid interacting with health agencies and potential employers, the authors said, which could delay preventive efforts and the timely diagnosis of conditions like hypertension.

“These patterns could have been caused by changes in deportation worry across the entire sample,” Torres et al. wrote. “This final assessment was performed in the aftermath of the 2016 presidential election, a period marked by increased deportation worry among immigrants and their family members.

“There is an urgent need to understand the impact of immigration policy and resulting deportation fears on CVD outcomes and related risk factors of immigrants and their family members...Future research should continue to document the impacts of both immigration policies and deportation worry on the long-term CV health of immigrants and their U.S.-born family members.”