Perceived stress and cortisol reactivity among immigrants to the United States: The importance of bicultural identity integration.


Department of Psychological Science, University of California, Irvine, United States. Electronic address: [Email]


Migration experiences are inherently stressful and may negatively affect the health of immigrants. Bicultural identity integration (BII), individuals' views of their multiple cultures as compatible and complementary, and their ability to easily integrate these cultures into their daily lives, has been linked with health outcomes. The main goal of the present study was to determine whether perceived stress and cortisol, a hormone of the HPA axis implicated in the biopsychological pathway linking stress and disease, are associated with BII. The sample consisted of 127 male and female, primarily Latino (68.3%) university and community college students (M = 20.4 yrs, SD = 2.1) who were either foreign-born or had at least one foreign-born parent. Regression analyses indicate that individuals scoring low on the cultural harmony subscale of the BII reported more perceived stress, overall model, F(2,126) = 18.04, p <  .001, and had higher salivary cortisol levels following a standardized laboratory stressor (Trier Social Stress Test), as indicated by a more pronounced cortisol mean increase, F(2,111) = 5.11, p =  .01, and a larger cortisol area under the curve with respect to ground, F(2,108) = 5.85, p =  .004, controlling for neuroticism. Our findings link perceived stress and cortisol reactivity with the BII cultural harmony subscale, above and beyond the known effects of neuroticism, suggesting that this construct is important to consider in biopsychosocical studies of immigrant stress and health.


Bicultural identity integration,Cortisol,Cultural harmony,Immigration,Stress,Trier Social Stress Test,