Document Type

Occasional Paper

Publication Date



This study explored Lao life histories, health, and social adjustment in the southern New England states of Rhode Island and Connecticut. In addition, it sought to examine whether there was a correlation between war experiences early in life and health in adulthood, a finding reported in previous research on the Hmong, another ethnic group from Laos. Overall, 99 Lao adults born in Laos or Thailand (mean age 43.5 +/- 10.8 years) completed orally administered questionnaires and were measured for blood pressure and various anthropometric markers. Lao in this sample appeared to have higher than average educational back grounds in Laos, with most individuals originating in the more urban population centers of Laos, which were largely spared from war. Therefore, as it became impossible to compare Lao born in war-zone and safe-zone areas, an improvised analysis was done by comparing Lao health data to the aforementioned Hmong study. Lao born in safe zones in Laos were taller, with lower body fat (but higher blood pressure) than the Hmong, who were more likely to be born in war zone areas. The first two findings are consistent with the developmental origins of health and disease hypothesis, a well-supported area of research which has linked prenatal malnutrition to later chronic diseases. However, the blood pressure finding is puzzling. Finally, a significant inverse correlation was found between adult height and the total number of refugee experiences for Hmong and Lao—a potentially new finding.


An Occasional Paper for the Institute for Asian American Studies at the University of Massachusetts Boston.



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