Family ties, healthy habits give Latinos longer lives
BY DAVID OLSON Nov 26, 2010
Researchers say Mexican immigrants who exercise regularly, eat wholesome foods and live in tight-knit communities illustrate why Latinos live longer on average than non-Hispanic whites and blacks.
That lifestyle may extend their lifespan, according to a federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report released last month. It found Latinos in the U.S. live on average 80.6 years, compared with 78.1 years for non-Hispanic whites and 72.9 for non-Hispanic blacks.
Experts call it the "Latino health paradox." People usually live longer if they have high incomes, high education levels and greater access to health care. Latinos are on average poorer, less educated and less likely to visit doctors than most Americans -- yet they live longer.
The CDC report -- the first to examine Hispanic life expectancy in the U.S. -- confirmed what researchers have been saying since the mid-1980s. Hispanics have lower rates of disease, including cancer, stroke and heart disease, the three leading causes of death in the U.S.
Diet and exercise probably are among the factors, as is a strong sense of community and close family ties, which can lead to better health, said David Hayes-Bautista, director of the Center for the Study of Latino Health and Culture at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Research by Kyriakos Markides, a professor of aging at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, has found that Latin-American immigrants are significantly healthier than U.S.-born Latinos: "There is no doubt immigrants are driving this."
Nearly 40 percent of U.S. Latinos were born abroad.
Markides suggests that people who emigrate from their home country are typically healthier than those who do not. In addition, Latin-American immigrants are less likely to drink, smoke, do drugs and contract sexually transmitted diseases. Immigrants also are more likely to have physically demanding jobs that keep them in shape and to eat healthier food.
Scripps Howard News Service