Why Hispanics Live Longer Than Whites

Photo (cc) by Sundve

Hispanics have a longer life expectancy than non-Hispanic whites — by about two years — despite socioeconomic disadvantages.

This confirmation of what’s known as the “Hispanic paradox” comes from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s first national study of “vital signs,” including mortality, disease and overall health, in the Hispanic community.

The Washington Post reports:

“For many years there has been a description of the Hispanic Paradox, that despite … lower socioeconomic status they live longer,” Tom Frieden, director of the CDC, said at a telephone news conference Tuesday. “Recent data corroborates that most of that may relate to smoking rates.”

Hispanics’ disadvantages include being:

  • Twice as likely to live below the poverty line as whites
  • Four times as likely to not have completed high school
  • More likely to lack health insurance (41.5 percent uninsured, compared with 15.1 percent of whites)
  • More likely to delay or not receive necessary medical care because of costs (15.5 percent, compared with 13.6 percent for whites)

Despite these challenges, Hispanics have a 24 percent lower death rate across all causes of death, and lower death rates for nine of the 15 leading causes of death.

Still, Hispanics have higher rates of death than whites in several categories, including:

  • Diabetes (51 percent higher)
  • Chronic liver disease and cirrhosis (48 percent)
  • Essential hypertension and hypertensive renal disease (8 percent)
  • Homicide (96 percent)

They also have higher rates of diabetes (133 percent higher) and obesity (23 percent).

Hispanics comprise the largest ethnic minority population in the U.S., and the CDC reports that the group is projected to increase from 17.7 percent of the population (or about 56.8 million people) this year to 22.8 percent (or about 84.5 million people) by 2035.

As of 2013, most Hispanics were Mexican (64 percent), Puerto Rican (9.5 percent) or Central American (8.9 percent).

One key difference between Hispanics and non-Hispanic whites is that the former are almost 15 years younger on average. The CDC report therefore concludes:

So early intervention might have a broader impact on Hispanics in preventing chronic diseases that can manifest decades later…

Bilingual health education materials, innovative means of increasing health insurance coverage and access to culturally appropriate health care and preventive services that consider lower health literacy and education levels of many U.S. Hispanics are all critically important.

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