Latinx teens in California who have at least one immigrant parent have reported increasing levels of anxiety related to how immigration policies in the United States may personally affect them. Researchers wrote that this anxiety increased significantly after the 2016 presidential election.
“We’re seeing an increase in anxiety that is related to kids’ concern about the personal consequences of U.S. immigration policy, and these are U.S.-born citizens,” Brenda Eskenazi, PhD, the Brian and Jennifer Maxwell Endowed Chair in Public Health at the University of California Berkley’s School of Public Health, said in a press release.
“Further, these are kids in California, a sanctuary state with more protective policies for immigrant families, compared with many other states,” she added. “So, this study is probably reflecting the best-case scenario of how children of immigrants in other states are being affected.”
Eskenazi and colleagues analyzed data from the Center for Health Assessment of Mothers and Children of Salinas, a long-term study of U.S.-born teens who had at least one immigrant parent. The 397 adolescents included in the analysis had two health assessments — one at age 14 years before the 2016 presidential election, and another at age 16 years, the first year after the election.
The teens’ concern about U.S. immigration policy was self-reported at age 16 years, measured by an instrument called Perceived Immigration Policy Effects Scale, or PIPES.
Most of the adolescents included in the study identified as Mexican-American, and 44.8% reported that they worried at least sometimes about how immigration policy may personally affect them. Nearly the same percentage (44.6%) were worried about family separation as a result of deportation, and 41.3% said they worried about being reported to the immigration office.
Teens who had higher scores on the PIPES instrument had higher self-reported average anxiety T-scores compared with those who had low PIPES scores (5.43 vs. 2.98). Those who had higher PIPES scores also had worse Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index scores (0.98; 95% CI, 0.36-1.59).
Additionally, those who had high scores on the PIPES instrument had a statistically significant increase in anxiety between their first and second visits (adjusted mean difference-in-differences = 2.91; 95% CI, 0.20-5.61). However, these teens did not have significantly increased depression levels (adjusted mean difference-in-differences = 2.63; 95% CI, -0.28 to 5.54).
“It’s not just that these youth are faced with the prospect of ICE coming to their door and taking away their parents, but in addition to that, they are having to navigate through settings that may not feel friendly in this political climate in order to help themselves and their parents,” Julianna Deardorff, PhD, an associate professor in the Maternal and Child Health Program at the UC Berkeley School of Public Health, said in the release. – by Katherine Bortz
Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.