By AMERICAN HEART ASSOCIATION NEWS

0421-News-Hispanics_Blog

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Hispanics in the U.S. live at least three years longer than black and white Americans, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Life expectancy for someone born in 2014 was 81.8 years for Hispanics, compared with 78.8 years for whites and 75.2 years for blacks.

The data reflect what has been called the “Hispanic mortality paradox,” said Elizabeth Arias, Ph.D., author of the report, released this week, and a demographer at the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics. On average, Hispanics are low-income and have a poverty rate similar to blacks, making it “surprising they have lower mortality and then in turn higher life expectancy than the majority population,” she said.

Life expectancy for Hispanics has been on a steady climb since at least 2006, when it was 80.3 years, according to a CDC report released last year.

The new 2014 data show that among Hispanics, women seem to have a leg up on longevity. Hispanic women are expected to live 84 years at birth, while life expectancy for Hispanic men is 79.2 years.

Statistics from the CDC show U.S. Hispanic adults have a lower prevalence of heart disease and cancer than blacks and whites, but are almost twice as likely as whites to have been diagnosed with diabetes.

As for why Hispanics are living longer, one reason might be that they are less likely to smoke, Arias said. It has been hard for researchers to pin down whether nutrition or close family ties also help Hispanics live longer, she said.

Demographer Mark D. Hayward, Ph.D., suspects the longer life span could be explained by foreign-born Hispanics who endured hardship to get to the United States. Immigrant Hispanics, he said, are more physically “robust” than U.S.-born Hispanics.

“It was hard to get here,” said Hayward, a researcher with the Population Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin who has studied Hispanic life expectancy.

The physically demanding jobs many low-income Hispanics have between the ages of 18 and 64 may also play a role, Hayward said.

Life expectancy among Hispanics from different countries varies, Arias said, but that information is not yet available. Foreign-born Hispanics, however, do live longer than U.S.-born Hispanics, she said. Statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau show that more than a third of U.S. Hispanics of any age — about 36 percent — were born outside the United States.

The report is based on death certificate data. It wasn’t until 1997 that death certificates in all 50 states added “Hispanic” to descriptive categories for race and ethnicity. Arias noted, however, that accurate federal data for Hispanic life expectancy dates back to only 2006.

Other findings from the report include:

  • Life expectancy at birth for black men increased from 71.8 to 72.2 years.
  • Life expectancy at birth for white women dropped slightly, from 81.2 years in 2013 to 81.1 years in 2014.
  • Life expectancy at birth for Americans overall did not change between 2013 and 2014, remaining at 78.8 years.