Hispanics Have Longer Life Expectancy Than Other Groups, but Problems Still Plague Community

May 20, 2015 by No Comments

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A new study out of California reveals that Hispanic residents in Sacramento have the longest life expectancy of any demographic in the area, despite hardships like poverty and high obesity rates.

According to data from the 2014 Sacramento County Health Status Report, Hispanics have a life expectancy of 87.7 years — at least 3.6 years beyond the next ethnic group, Asian Americans, and nine years beyond the white non-Hispanic population.

Yet much of the research suggests that this life expectancy is due to those who are first generation immigrants, especially those from Mexico. As more Latinos assimilate and Mexican immigration slows down, however, those numbers for life expectancy are expected to fade.

The long life expectancy is something that researchers refer to as “the Hispanic Paradox.” Despite living longer, Latinos in California also rank among the most impoverished and least insured residents in the state.

National data reveals that Hispanics also have lower divorce rates than most of the population, likely due to religious faith. In Mexico, the divorce rate is just 9%, as opposed to 50% in the U.S.

A recent survey of Americans found that the most likely cause for working with a divorce or family law attorney was “lack of commitment,” which was also cited as a major reason for splitting for 73% of respondents.

Yet as more young Hispanics assimilate, research indicates that they may also see more divorces. The March 20 issue ofThe Economist noted that second-generation Hispanics have higher divorce rates than those who immigrated to the U.S.

The younger generations also have more negative health outcomes and higher incarceration rates, both of which may be factors that could contribute to shorter life spans.

But there is good news for those in Mexican households, according to Dr. Sergio Aguilar-Gaxiola of the UC Davis Center for Reducing Health Disparities. Speaking Spanish at home is shown to reduce anxiety, and those households with tight-knit family structures also had historically lowered rates of anxiety and depression, said Aguilar-Gaxiola.

But Xavier Morales from the Latino Coalition for a Healthy California warns that as more Hispanics assimilate into American culture and immigration slows down, that long life expectancy could catch up with the rest of the population.

And where many immigrant families today eat a basic diet of rice, beans, meat and fresh produce, others are adopting a more sedentary lifestyle laden with processed foods. Those fears are backed up by research: 69% of Latinos adults are overweight or obese, half don’t get the recommended number of fruits and vegetables in their daily diets, and 67% eat fast food at least once per week, according to a recent report by the California Department of Public Health.

“If that immigration starts to slow down, if we don’t change things and we keep on with more consumption of fast food and sugar sweet beverages, the average life expectancy will likely be going down,” said Morales.

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