Health Inequalities: Why do Latinos live longer than Whites?

Is summarized below for each state (source) – and it shows some very interesting patterns.

us-life-expectancy-by-race

The average life expectancy of Asian-Americans (86.5 years) is 4 years higher than in Japan – the longest-lived big East Asian country. Taiwan and South Korea are at around 80; Hong Kong is at 83; Singapore is at 81. The other East Asian countries aren’t developed yet, so there isn’t much point in comparison.

The LE of Latinos is 82.8, which is 6 years more than in Mexico, 4 years more than in the longest-lived Latin American countries and even a year higher than in Spain (one of the longest-lived European countries). This is despite the fact that obesity rates among Hispanics in the US is very high - higher than those of whites.

On average American whites can expect to live to just 78.9 – the same as in Chile or Denmark (the shortest-lived Western European country). A most curious anomaly, given their higher SES and lower obesity rates relative to Hispanics.

Blacks can expect to live around 74.2 years. This is far higher than in any African country, but the comparison is flawed for obvious reasons. It is however pretty close to the life expectancy in predominantly mulatto Caribbean countries like Jamaica (73 years) or the Bahamas (75 years), countries which are more suitable for comparison.

Native Americans average 76.9 years, though they are spread out all across the spectrum – ranging from 80 in California, to 69 in Montana.

Some questions and issues to ponder:

(1) The influence of diet and lifestyle: This is pretty clear-cut in the case of the Native Americans; the groups with life expectancy at around ~70 are no doubt brought down by those of them who live in alcohol-soaked reservations. This is the same life expectancy in Russia and some other former Soviet countries, where binge drinking of spirits is likewise prevalent. But it is genuinely interesting to consider why Latinos, who are more obese than whites, nonetheless manage to live so consistently longer – both relative to white Americans, and even to Spaniards. Likewise for Asians – although Asian-Americans are inevitably more influenced by American food habits than East Asians in their own countries – which are said to have far healthier national cuisines – they nonetheless manage to live significantly longer than them.

(2) The influence of the US healthcare system: It is frequently slammed and denigrated, but how to explain that the two biggest immigrant groups – Latinos and Asians – live a lot longer than in their countries of origin (including the developed ones)? Conversely, why would white America, if it were a separate country, be at near the very bottom of the life expectancy charts compared to Western European countries?

(3) One rejoinder is that immigrants to the US are better-educated, higher-IQ, and/or richer than the average in their countries of origin. As such, they are expected to have a higher life expectancy anyway. But this is patently not the case regarding Hispanics, and only partially true regarding Asians (Chinese Americans include both low-class indentured laborers who migrated in the 19th century, as well as far more commercially successful recent migrants from the Chinese diaspora of South-East Asia; the Japanese-American community is mostly descended from low-class laboring immigrants from the 19th century).

(4) The r/K selection theory plausibly explains the Black – White – Asian life expectancy sequence, especially in the US where they all share more or less the same cultural and healthcare environment. The case of the Latinos, however, remains rather shrouded; one possibility is that Amerindians (which is what many Hispanic immigrants to the US predominantly are) are more K-selected than whites – they did, after all, branch off from the proto-Mongoloids – and thus naturally have higher life expectancies than whites.

(5) Asian-Americans and Latinos are younger than whites. This does not have a direct effect on life expectancy (unlike on crude mortality), but with a greater ratio of young people to elderly – not to mention stronger family values – it does perhaps mean that elderly Asian-Americans and Latinos get more attention and care from their family members, thus reducing stress/depression levels and enabling them to eke out one or two more years than they would have otherwise.

Comments

  1. I am not sure that “latino” is a very useful concept: a descendent from the germanic tribes from the north of Iberia is lumped with a Maya and with a Colombian black african.

    Regarding your note 5: my ignorant opinion is that happiness may have a significant impact and that some cultures produce happier people than others.

    • You are right. A lot of US Latinos ARE white, at least as that term is defined in the USA. You would have to break it down into its different population groups (mostly white Cubans, mostly mestizo Mexicans, mostly mulatto Dominicans etc.) for the comparison to make sense.

  2. Thorfinnsson says:

    Extreme Hispanic apathy probably results in good mental health and thus longer lifespans. In America our abundance allows them to achieve the rusty pickup trucks, crappy houses with cars parked on the lawn, Tecate beer (‘scuse me that’s CERVEZA), and 24/7 access to their desired entertainment of telenovelas and pro-wrestling.

    As for Asian-Americans being longer lived than their coethnics across the Pacific, I suspect America’s more laid back culture makes for better mental health than the cram and shame obsessed cultures back home.

    White Americans on the other hand not only have less healthy lifestyles than their cousins across the pond, but are constantly bombarded with propaganda about how evil they and their ancestors are. Unlike less introspective and curious peoples, they are also given to introspection and moral neurosis. Not a good recipe for good mental or physical health.

    • Therapsid says:

      You’ve been spending too much time trawling the web for HBD blogs if you genuinely believe that white guilt over slavery and colonialism is significantly bringing down their life expectancy.

      • Thorfinnsson says:

        Poor mental health is a contributor to poor physical health.

        Mental stress is a contributor to coronary heart disease.

        Whites having shorter lifespans than hispanics (largely mestizos) despite healthier lifestyles is puzzling to say the least.

        Note also that I did not just highlight political reasons. Whites are more introspective and neurotic than hispanics, who are apathetic and content.

        • Note that whites in the District of Columbia have an LE of 84.3 years (that is the outlier on the chart above). Whites in DC are, of course, an upper-middle class liberal demographic. Needless to say, they are far more frequently bombarded by said claims of how evil they are than Appalachian hillbies who don’t go to college and live a decade less.

          Whites are indeed more introspective and neurotic than blacks. But Asians are more so than whites. It’s one of those characteristics that appear to be part of the r/K racial continuum.

          • Thorfinnsson says:

            I’m not sure that any amount of mental well being can make up for the Appalachian lifestyle of eating at Shoney’s and slamming moonshine at home.

            Also, whites in DC are mostly at the apex of American society which is a boost to mental health, and high SES whites are generally more likely to have in tact family structures.

            Are Asians really more introspective and neurotic than whites? It’s logical that such a trait would be on the r/K continuum, but whites seem to be uniquely vulnerable to adopting suicidal moral value systems–both individually and collectively.

  3. I know that the US healthcare system spends more money on the last year of life than do European ones. Terminally ill people are allowed to die relatively naturally more often in Europe than in America. There is more willingness in America to use technology to artificially prolong the circling-the-drain period of life. I’m assuming that this is because healthcare is a big business in America. The more services are rendered, the more revenue the insurance companies get.

    I don’t know where Asian countries stand on this, but if the profit motive is really the deciding factor here, then we can probably assume that Asia’s attitude towards terminal illness is closer to the European one than to the American one.

    East Asians, including Asian-Americans, are less likely than Whites to send their parents to nursing homes. The old live with their kids, help take care of their grandkids, feel useful. This probably prolongs life. I wonder where Mestizos and Mexican Indians stand on this.

    Asian-Americans: old people living with their kids + tons of money spent by the healthcare system on the last years of life + healthy lifestyle = extremely high life expectancy.

    Asians in Asia: old people living with their kids – government-run healthcare systems that don’t care about profit + healthy lifestyle = very high life expectancy.

    Europeans: loneliness among the old – government-run healthcare systems – somewhat unhealthy lifestyle = high life expectancy.

    US Whites: loneliness among the old + profit-seeking healthcare system (I’m thinking of insurance companies) – unhealthy lifestyle = relatively high life expectancy.

    US Hispanics: old people living with their kids (?) + profit-seeking healthcare system – unhealthy lifestyle = very high life expectancy.

  4. East Asians live both densely populated and competitive society which bring them more stress than live in US. Adults and students in Japan, Korea and China work longer and harder.

    From Happy Planet Index, I notice that most happiest countries are from Latin America. (^_^) Religion and close family ties make people happy.

    Whites in US are too self-dependent. What make things worse is that the government is too “Republic”. It does not provide enough public service. For example, bad public school, no universal health care. While Asians and Latinos get help from families, Whites relies on themselves.

  5. Immigrants are on average much healthier than the population they come from. And the more recent the more you find this selection effect. You will find that in almost migrant group/receiving region.
    Upper class is healthier than lower class.
    Urban population is much healthier than rural.

    Asian: Recent upper class migrants that live in urban centers.
    Latinos: Urban migrants
    Blacks: lower class, low number of immigrants
    Whites: Average except for below average immigrants
    Native Americans: Lower class, rural, no immigrants (counted as Latino)

    Diet/smoking plays a role too. For instance American Japanese are mostly non-smoking upper/middle class urbanites. Japanese in Japan smoke a lot and it is impossible to be all better than average.

    • But are Latinos urban migrants? Many of what are known as Hispaniacs in the US are from economically unviable small towns and rural areas of Central America (aka of predominantly Amerindian ancestry).

      The recent Asian migrants are higher than their old home averages. However, the bulk of their demographic base remains the Chinese and Japs who migrated in the 19th century before the Chinese Exclusion Act. These were (much like today’s Latino immigrants) basically low-class peasantry/small towners who came to toil on the railways under horrid conditions that none of their bourgeois-class compatriots would have accepted.

      Agreed about the smoking. That’s a significant difference between Japan (and Korea), and the Asian-Americans in the US. It might account for maybe ~1-1.5 years of the 4 year life expectancy gap. (Based on the difference between Greece, 81 years LE – Greeks smoke like smokestacks – and Spaniards/Italians with an LE of 82).

      • I meant that they live in American cities with urban, not that they are not Mexican hicks. Immigrants have a habit of being peasants.

        I’m to lazy to google it but something like 40% of Asian Americans is foreign born.

        People of different classes also have a very significant effect. Upper middleclass Japanese who come from Okinawa and don’t smoke are likely the right people to compare Japanese Americans with.

  6. There’s been recent news that the life expectancies of white people without high school diplomas are dropping while the life expectancies of white people who graduated from high school and gone on to college are rising. The most curious piece of news is that white women who did not graduate from high school have a LOWER life expectancy than black women who did not graduate from high school.
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/she-the-people/wp/2013/09/09/life-span-falls-for-uneducated-white-women-now-lower-than-that-of-uneducated-black-women/

    No-one knows the reason for this difference. It might be though that most underprivileged black people and other minority groups live in cities where they are closer to charities and government and private agencies that can help them whereas most poor whites might be living in rural or semi-rural areas far from similar charities and organisations (including medical clinics and hospitals). Another complicating factor is that many poor whites might shun help because they value self-reliance (they might already be living off the grid) and they’ve been told repeatedly that the government has been infiltrated by godless Communists.

    The article I linked to did mention methamphetamine addiction as a risk factor in determining life expectancies of poor whites. From what I’ve read about meth addiction, it seems to be rife in rural and small town America where both men and women use it to self-medicate to overcome depression and fatigue (because they often have to work several jobs just to survive) and as a form of low-cost weight control. People make it as well and there are risks involved in cooking meth: the ingredients used are highly flammable and toxic (they include kerosene and anhydrous ammonia), and neighbours’ lives and health can be endangered and even buildings and soil made toxic if a meth lab blows up.
    http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/risk/behavior/methuse.html

    • It could be that not finishing high school is so rare for white women than people with down syndrome etc. are a significant part of that group and they much less healthy.

      It is also easier to escape an urban ghetto than a rural one by finding work.

      • Not finishing high school may also be a result of falling pregnant. There may be many reasons for early teenage pregnancy among poor white women (lack of job opportunities, early marriage, sexual abuse by older male relatives).

    • Thorfinnsson says:

      You have not only obviously never lived in small-town America, but you’re projecting your own urban bourgeois mindset onto rural white trash.

      People who are hooked on meth in rural America aren’t the sort of people who are diligent and concerned about their weight and unemployment. They’re largely lumpenproletariat and subsist on SSI, exploiting family relations, and occasionally petty crime. I lived in a poor, rural county in Wisconsin for a decade. Nearly a fifth of the workforce in the county is officially “disabled”, which is obviously absurd.

      Methamphetamines are also now being displaced by “bath salts”, a type of amphetamine, largely in part of law enforcement efforts to crack down on meth. The good news is that bath salts are less harmful than methamphetamines. The bad news is…we still have a broken, failing society in which huge swathes of the population turn to drugs. This even applies to successful, intelligent people where many of them are rolling on God knows how many prescription drugs.

      In general intelligent people seem to have extreme difficulties understanding what life is actually like for people on the left half of the bell curve.

      • Methamphetamines are also now being displaced by “bath salts”, a type of amphetamine, largely in part of law enforcement efforts to crack down on meth.

        Surprised to hear bath salts are less bad than meth. Wasn’t this the drug that gave you a strange but irresistable craving for raw human flesh?

        This even applies to successful, intelligent people where many of them are rolling on God knows how many prescription drugs.

        I agree. Doctors in the US are far too ready to prescribe drugs when natural and better alternatives exist. I guess it’s a function of (1) people not being disciplined and preffered magic pill “solutions” and (2) the influence of the pharma-industrial complex.

        In general intelligent people seem to have extreme difficulties understanding what life is actually like for people on the left half of the bell curve.

        Indeed.
        PS – have you read Charles Murray’s latest book on this?

        • Jennifer Hor says:

          Childaddicthelp.com article on bath salts as a drug has this to say on its long-term use:

          ” … Long term usage has been known to cause erectile dysfunction in men, chronic depression in everyone, and a permanent psychotic state. There have been hundreds of deaths and thousands of people described by professionals as walking zombies …”

          http://www.childaddicthelp.com/bath-salts/

          No thanks, if I had to choose between meth and bath salts, I’ll take the meth.

          While on the topics of flesh-eating and new drugs based on pharmaceuticals that literally eat away at people, news has just come out that two cases that possibly involve Krokodil, the infamous drug that makes your skin look reptilian and causes flesh to drop off, exposing bone, have been reported in Arizona.
          http://rt.com/usa/desomorphine-drug-arizona-flesh-decay-426/

        • Thorfinnsson says:

          Surprised to hear bath salts are less bad than meth. Wasn’t this the drug that gave you a strange but irresistable craving for raw human flesh?

          I view this as being no different than the lurid marijuana panic stories from the past.

          The long-term results Jen are reporting don’t sound good, but bath salts have only been popular for a few years. I had an employee who was arrested for manufacturing, selling, and using bath salts. She was fine on the job if a bit wacky (I suspected she was on drugs for sure but she got her job done).

          Many of the people in small-town Wisconsin arrested while on bath salts are described by the local papers as zombies, but when you’re whacked on on drugs (usually they’re high on pot and drunk on alcohol in addition to being on bath salts) you’re going to be zombie-like. I once ate an excess of cannabis edibles and spent the next two days on the couch shaking. Unpleasant, but no big deal.

          I agree. Doctors in the US are far too ready to prescribe drugs when natural and better alternatives exist. I guess it’s a function of (1) people not being disciplined and preffered magic pill “solutions” and (2) the influence of the pharma-industrial complex.

          It’s not just what doctors prescribe. A lot of successful young people I know if they’re unable to get prescriptions from doctors buy prescription drugs from drug dealers. I know plenty of people in finance who are rolling on pharmies 24/7. Xanax (or something similar) to calm anxiety, adderall (amphetamine) to increase discipline and focus, and then illegal club drugs for going out (generally ecstasy and cocaine, occasionally hallucinogens). These are people at the apex of American society.

          Indeed.
          PS – have you read Charles Murray’s latest book on this?

          Yes, and like nearly all of his work it’s superb. The prestige press actually covered it (since he omitted the critical subject of race), but it will have no impact.

  7. Might obesity among Hispanics be a generational thing? Perhaps older generations weren’t obese and thus their people live longer – the current obese generation hasn’t achieved the age where diabetes, kidney failure etc. will take their toll.

  8. I think most of the difference is simply due to size.

    Here’s a Western Journal of Medicine paper on the life expectancy advantages of smaller stature in humans. It is great because it looks at populations all over the world and documents a number of studies. Consistently smaller people live longer, both within race and between races.
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1071721/

    This is also true of dogs.
    “The aging profile of dogs varies according to their adult size (often determined by their breed): smaller dogs often live over 15–16 years, medium and large size dogs typically 10 to 13 years, and some giant dog breeds such as mastiffs, often only 7 to 8 years. ” (Wiki)

    • Anonymous says:

      I was going to say that. Hispanic and Japanese people are significantly shorter than white Americans by average, and that probably explains most of this puzzling business.

  9. “It is however pretty close to the life expectancy in predominantly mulatto Caribbean countries like Jamaica (73 years) or the Bahamas (75 years), countries which are more suitable for comparison.”

    That has to be the funniest I’ve read. Jamaica isn’t anywhere near a mulatto country. Neither is the Bahamas!

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