In the USA in 2006, life expectancy for Hispanics at birth was 80.6 years, 78.1 years for whites and 72.9 years for African-Americans. Life expectancy for the whole country, including all populations was 77.7 years. This phenomenon, of a significantly poorer ethnic group living longer than the supposedly top of the pile - American whites - has been labeled the "Hispanic Paradox" by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).
Dr. Delgado, CEO of the National Alliance for Hispanic Health, wrote in a communiqué:
These findings show that risk factors are not deterministic and suggest that culture, family, and community may have a powerful positive impact on well-being. Our health models need to better incorporate the health experiences of all communities.
All Hispanics have been included in this CDC study, those with no insurance or insufficient health coverage, high risk occupations, and individuals with lower incomes. The mortality advantage among Hispanics persists throughout all socioeconomic levels, the report informs.
The authors of the report wrote:
This seemingly paradoxical result has been found in numerous research studies using a variety of data sources, including state and national vital statistics, local surveys, and national linked mortality follow-up surveys, such as the NLMS and the National Health Interview Survey-Multiple Cause of Death (NHIS-MCD) linked data. All such studies have consistently found a Hispanic mortality advantage over the non-Hispanic white population even when differences in demographic and socioeconomic characteristics are taken into account.
Delgado says that the longer Hispanics stay in the USA, the worse their advantages appear to become. Some previous reports have revealed that Hispanics who return to their country from the USA after a few years, generally do so in worse health than when they arrived, unlike those who returned from Canada or Spain. For that, and other reasons, Delgado does not believe the Hispanic mortality advantage is linked to genes.
Below is some highlighted information from the report "United States Life Tables by Hispanic Origin" (2006):
- USA total life expectancy, all ethnic groups, 77.7 years.
- USA Hispanic population life expectancy, 80.6 years.
- USA white population life expectancy, 78.1 years.
- USA African-American non-Hispanic population, 72.9 years.
- The life expectancy of the American Hispanic population is 2.5 years greater than it is for whites and 7.7 longer than for African-Americans.
- The Hispanic's mortality advantage has been consistent in several studies, despite their generally lower socio-economic status compared to whites
- 15% of the US population was Hispanic in 2006; the country's largest ethnic minority.
- There were 45.4 million Hispanics in the USA in 2006
- Hispanic is defined as "a person of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South or Central American, or other Spanish culture or origin, regardless of race''.
- 64.5% of US Hispanics are of Mexican origin, 9.1% are Puerto Rican, 7.9% are Central American, 5.6% are South American, 3.5% are Cuban, 2.8% are Dominican, and 1% are from Spain.
- 61% of the Mexican origin population is US-born, while 69% of the South American population is foreign-born.
The finding of higher life expectancy for the Hispanic population seems paradoxical because on average the Hispanic population has lower socioeconomic status than the non-Hispanic white population. Given the relationship between socioeconomic status and mortality, a mortality profile similar to that of the non-Hispanic black population would seem more likely for the Hispanic population.
The authors add that factors which may have an impact on the statistics, such as ages of people who go back home and those who stay, have been fully addressed in this report.
American-Hispanics life expectancy is about the same as it is for Western Europeans overall (including all ethnic groups.
"United States Life Tables by Hispanic Origin" (PDF)
US Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics
Written by Christian Nordqvist