Fear of deportation doubles the risk of high blood pressure in Mexican-born women in farmworker families who live in California’s Salinas Valley, a new study claims.
It included 572 women, average age 39, who in 2012-2014 were asked to rate their level of worry about deportation for themselves or others as low (28%); moderate (24%); or high (48%).
Researchers linked worry to larger increases in systolic pressure. (Systolic pressure, the top number in a blood pressure reading, measures the force of blood against the arteries when heart beats.) But rates of high blood pressure were not significantly different among women with different levels of worry.
In follow-ups conducted in 2014-2016 and 2016-2018, women who were more worried about deportation had a larger initial increase in systolic blood pressure and average arterial pressure, the study found.
Among the 408 women without high blood pressure at the outset, those with moderate or high levels of worry were twice as likely as others to be diagnosed with high blood pressure.
The study was published Nov. 27 in the Journal of the American Heart Association.
“Our findings suggest that concerns around immigration policies and enforcement may have potentially negative impacts on the long-term cardiovascular health of immigrants and their families and community,” lead author Jacqueline Torres said in a journal news release.
She’s an assistant professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of California, San Francisco.
“Just as clinicians may think about the role of other stressors impacting the lives and health of their patients, this study suggests they may also need to consider the impact of policies such as immigration on stress levels and the subsequent effect on outcomes related to blood pressure,” Torres said.
Researchers only found an association, not a cause-and-effect link. Also, they noted their findings may not apply to migrants in other parts of the United States.
“The women in this study are living in a welcoming, largely Latino community, and they’re also in California, where they may have less fear of being deported because it’s a sanctuary state,” said senior author Brenda Eskenazi, director of the Center for Environmental Research and Children’s Health at University of California, Berkeley. “These results may be magnified in other regions in the United States.”
The study is ongoing. Researchers plan to examine how deportation worries affect the women’s mental and physical functioning as they enter middle age.
The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more on high blood pressure.