The effects of migration on human health have been a topic of interest for demographers and human biologists. Even if migrants to a new region achieve a higher standard of living in their new place of residence, their improved living conditions may not be associated with better health. Part of the difficulty of understanding the health consequences of migration is the complications in trying to control for variables that may affect health, such as gender, age, and urban or rural environment of migrants and nonmigrants. In this paper we report results of a meta-analysis of the body mass index (BMI) and blood pressure (BP) of people of South Asian descent, by comparing nonmigrants who inhabit the subcontinent, with migrants who moved to various places around the globe. Our results indicate that BMI almost always increases to a significant level upon migration and that an increase in BMI is most pronounced in female migrants. Our results also show that BP does not always increase in migrant communities and that it is actually lower in some migrant samples than it is in comparable nonmigrant groups. Therefore, our results show that BP and the BMI do not behave in the same manner following a migration event. We propose that the BMI changes experienced by migrants are likely to reflect different activity levels and diet in the new homeland. However, the BP changes experienced by migrants are likely to reflect stress broadly defined. Such stress may be increased or decreased, depending on the specific migration experience. We propose that the BMI and BP measure two different dimensions of the migration experience.
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Vol. 83 • No. 1