New Study: Hispanics in U.S. live longer than Whites, Blacks

This new study that shows Hispanics have the highest life expectancy in the U.S. comes as a bit of a surprise — especially when you consider the dangerously delicious cuisine we consume — because on average the Hispanic population has lower socioeconomic status than the non-Hispanic white population, as Elizabeth Arias, the lead researcher of this study says — the “Hispanic paradox” as they’ve fittingly named it.

The study shows that life expectancy for Hispanics is 80.6. Life expectancy is 78.1 for Non-Hispanic whites and 72.9 for non-Hispanic blacks. Overall, the life expectancy at birth for all Americans is 77.7.

A print graphic showing life expectancies in the U.S. for hispanics, blacks and whites. P. Prengaman / AP

The study, which appears in the October issue of Vital and Health Statistics, marks the  first time that this longevity information has included reliable statistics for Hispanics living in the U.S. For this particular study, researchers analyzed 2006 data from death certificates in all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and U.S. territories.

Hispanic males’ life expectancy at birth is 77.9, but their life expectancy once they reach the age of 65 is 84. Hispanic women’s life expectancy at birth is 83.1 years, and this number reaches 86.7 if they live to 65, the study shows — very ripe ages, as many would say. But possibly the bigger question here would be:

Why do Hispanics live longer?

Some medical experts claim that this phenomenon is due to the “immigrant factor.” About 39 percent of the 45 million Hispanics are immigrants. Moving from one country to another takes some effort and fitness. So the United States may be attracting relatively healthier people from Mexico, the largest source of Hispanic immigrants, and other countries, according to NPR via AP.

Other factors that account for the paradox? Arias (of the National Center for Health Statistics), speculated that the longer life expectancy might also have to do with cultural factors, including close social and family networks and low rates of smoking.

Will this “achievement” be maintained?

What happens when that immigrant hardiness diminishes? Which possibly can occur after a couple of generations of their living here. Many believe that since the children of immigrants take up smoking, fast-food diets and other habits, they could wreck the health of other ethnic populations.

I suppose only time will tell.

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