Monday, November 15, 2010

Who Lives the Longest?

Well, this is a surprise. Hispanics live longer than other U.S. residents despite the fact that they are the least educated, have the lowest incomes, and are most likely to be without health insurance. The National Center for Health Statistics recently estimated, for the first time, the life expectancy of the Hispanic population. To their astonishment, the calculations showed that Hispanics live longer than blacks or non-Hispanic whites. In 2006 (the latest data available), Hispanics had a life expectancy at birth of 80.6 years. This compares with a life expectancy of 78.1 years for non-Hispanic whites and 72.9 years for non-Hispanic blacks. The actuaries are mystified.

Why the surprise? For one, because education has a strong positive correlation with life expectancy. The more educated you are, the longer you live. Studies have shown that a high school diploma adds five or six years to life expectancy. But only 63 percent of Hispanic adults have a high school diploma, far below the 83 percent of blacks and 91 percent of non-Hispanic whites. Yet Hispanics live longer.

The second reason for the surprise: Hispanics have lower incomes than blacks or non-Hispanic whites, and higher incomes are strongly correlated with a longer life expectancy. Studies show that people in the highest income groups live 4 to 10 years longer than people in the lowest income groups. Yet Hispanics live longer.

The third reason for the shock waves reverberating in the nation's vital statistics corridors is that Hispanics are least likely to have health insurance coverage. Only 68 percent of Hispanics are insured compared with 79 percent of blacks and 88 percent of non-Hispanic whites. Yet Hispanics live longer.

Source: United State Life Tables by Hispanic Origin

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