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In US, Hispanics outlive whites, blacks

Associated Press / October 14, 2010

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ATLANTA — US Hispanics can expect to outlive whites by more than two years and blacks by more than seven, government researchers say in a startling report that is the first to calculate Hispanic life expectancy in this country.

The report released yesterday is the strongest evidence yet of what some specialists call the “Hispanic paradox’’ — longevity for a population with a large share of poor, undereducated members. A leading theory is that Hispanics who manage to immigrate to the United States are among the healthiest from their countries.

A Hispanic born in 2006 could expect to live about 80 years and seven months, the government estimates. Life expectancy for a white is about 78, and for a black, just shy of 73 years.

Researchers have seen signs of Hispanic longevity for years. But until recently, the government didn’t calculate life expectancy for Hispanics as a separate group; they were included among the black and white populations. The new report projecting life spans is based on death certificates from years earlier.

By breaking out the longer-living Hispanics, the life expectancies for non-Hispanic whites and blacks both declined slightly, said the report’s author, Elizabeth Arias of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Hispanics are the largest, fastest-growing minority in the United States, accounting for 15 percent of the population.

An estimated 40 percent of them are immigrants, who in some cases arrived after arduous journeys and do taxing manual labor. It takes a fit person to accomplish that, suggesting that the United States is gaining some of the healthiest people born in Mexico and other countries, said Dr. Peter Muennig of Columbia University’s school of public health, who has studied life expectancy in different countries.

Compared with the estimate for all US Hispanics, the life expectancy is nearly two years lower in Puerto Rico, more than two years lower in Cuba, and more than four years lower in Mexico, according to World Health Organization figures.

Specialists say, however, that immigrant hardiness diminishes within a couple of generations of living here. Many believe it’s because the children of immigrants take up smoking and fast-food diets.

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