This past week, the U.S. government, Department of Health & Human Services (Centers for Disease Control & Prevention) released the latest statistics on life expectancy for different groups of people. Notable among the reporting is that U.S. Hispanics outlive other population groups – whites by ~2.5 years and blacks by nearly 8 years.
The reasons aren’t entirely clear to the experts, but possible explanations are factors related to migration, lifestyle and culture. After all, ~40% of Hispanics are immigrants.
Dr. J. Mario Molina, a physician who works with low-income Hispanic patients in the Los Angeles area, offers one possible explanation: “Many Hispanics are poor and not well educated, but they typically eat home-cooked food and do physical labor.”
As far back as 1986, Kyriakos Markides, a University of Texas professor, came up with the term “Hispanic Epidemiological Paradox” to describe the low mortality rates and better health outcomes seen among the Hispanic population in the Southwestern U.S. “It seems so paradoxical that a population so disadvantaged could live so long and be relatively healthy,” he was quoted as saying at the time.
So far, so good. But unfortunately, Hispanics may not find their edge in life expectancy continuing into the next generation. How do we know this? It turns out that U.S.-born Hispanics have worse health outcomes compared to their foreign-born compatriots — including higher incidences of things like obesity, diabetes, smoking, alcoholism and drug dependency.
Beyond the fact that it sounds like America is the land of the “seven deadly sins,” Dr. Molina puts it this way: “As people become acculturated, they adopt American ways. They become more sedentary and eat fast food. You look more American the longer your family has been here.” Not the best prognosis, that’s for sure.