Hispanics live longest
Here's an interesting piece of information that may sound like a paradox: Even though they tend to have a lower socioeconomic status, Hispanics in the United States on average outlive both blacks and whites, according to a new federal report.
The average life expectancy for a Hispanic person born in 2006 was 80.6 years, compared to 78.1 for whites and 72.9 for blacks, according to the report from the National Center for Health Statistics. The report marks the first time the agency has calculated life expectancy for Hispanics. There are more than 45 million Hispanics in the United States -- representing 15 percent of the total U.S. population -- making them the largest ethnic minority.
Such calculations were not possible before because Hispanic origin and age is often misclassified on death certificates, underestimating death rates. But the new report, which is based on information gathered from death certificates from all 50 states plus the District, used new techniques designed to address those problems, the researchers say.
The report found:
-- Life expectancy for Hispanic males at birth was 77.9 years and increased to 84 if they managed to survive until 65. For Hispanic females, life expectancy at birth was 83.1 and 86.7 if they lived to be 65.
-- That compares to 75.6 and 82.1 for white males and 80.4 and 84.7 for white females, and 69.2 and 80 for black males and 76.2 and 83.4 for black females.
The researchers say the findings are surprising 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."
It remains unclear why Hispanics have longer life expectancy. There are some theories, though. One is that the Hispanics who tend to emigrate to the United States tend to be healthier, which is known as the "healthy migrant effect," and those who are less healthy tend to return home, which is known as the "salmon bias effect."
But another explanation may be that cultural factors, such as "family structure, lifestyle behaviors and social networks" may be playing a role by "conferring a protective barrier against the vicissitudes of minority status and low socioeconomic conditions."
Jane L. Delgado of the National Alliance for Hispanic Health notes that this new report is in line with previous research that has found that Hispanics tend to live longer. But she noted that Hispanics are prone to diseases that compromise the quality of their lives, such as diabetes and depression.
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