Despite numerous risk factors that should shorten their lives, Hispanics in the United States are generally healthier than non-Hispanic whites, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Tuesday in its first comprehensive report on the health of that large and growing ethnic group.
Despite being poorer and having less access to health insurance and health care, Hispanics suffer 35 percent less heart disease and 49 percent less cancer than whites, and according to another study cited in Tuesday's report, live about two years longer. They also have lower rates of Alzheimer's disease, cerebrovascular disease, flu, pneumonia and other common killers of Americans.
"For many years there has been a description of the Hispanic Paradox, that despite … lower socioeconomic status they live longer," Tom Frieden, director of the CDC, said at a telephone news conference Tuesday. "Recent data corroborates that most of that may relate to smoking rates." In surveys, just 13.5 percent of Hispanics said they smoked, compared with 23.8 percent of whites.
Another possible factor, according to the report, is that the healthier members of Hispanic countries tend to be the ones who immigrate to the United States. And on average, Hispanics here are 15 years younger than whites.
But Hispanics' health advantages are not universal. Hispanics have higher death rates from diabetes, chronic liver disease and cirrhosis of the liver, hypertension and homicide than whites. More of them are obese and have diabetes when compared to whites.
The nation's nearly 57 million Hispanics make up 17.7 percent of the population in 2015 and are projected to comprise 22.8 percent (84.5 million people) by 2035. Despite those numbers, the report noted, there is little information that breaks down their health status by national or ethnic origin.
This study did, and it showed that Puerto Ricans smoke more than Hispanics that are of Cuban, Mexican, or Central and South American heritage and had nearly twice the rates of cancer of heart disease as those of Mexican heritage as well as a higher overall death rate. It also showed that Hispanics born in the United States had higher rates of obesity, hypertension, smoking, heart disease and cancer than Hispanics born abroad.