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Life Expectancy: the White American Paradox


   Latinos living in the US are poorer, have harsher jobs and less access to education and health services than Whites. But their health is better. So what's behind this "Hispanic paradox" as it is called in the official literature?

   The question itself demonstrates considerable bias. Paradoxical is not the observation that Latinos are healthier than Whites. Remarkable  instead is the fact that non-Hispanic Whites are less healthy than American Hispanics although they are richer, have less harsh jobs, have better access to education and health services than Latinos. So what's behind this “White paradox”?

   Typically, no American institution seems interested in looking at the issue from this angle. The White majority-centered academia undertook considerable research to discover why the disadvantaged Latino minority (15 percent of the total population) outlives the White or Caucasian or “European American” majority.

   Whites have higher mortality rates in seven out of the most important causes of death although they are half as frequently as the Latinos considered poor and are three times as likely to enjoy health insurance. However, Whites are less obese than Hispanics and suffer less frequently from diabetes, cirrhosis and other liver diseases.

   A typical American research result says: A smattering of evidence suggests that many Latino community environments discourage high-risk behaviors, such as excessive smoking, high alcohol consumption and heavy use of mind-altering chemicals that may threaten lifespans.

   Instead, this could be read as:  "Evidence suggests that many White environments encourage high-risk behaviors, such as excessive smoking, high alcohol consumption and heavy use of mind-altering chemicals that might threaten lifespans."

   Add to this suicides, pharmaceutical and hard drugs, unhealthy food, and you get closer to an explanation for the White paradox.

   In fact, there's strong evidence that the second generation Hispanics [the U.S.-born children of foreign-born immigrants] become acculturated and adopt behaviors such as smoking." Their health is more consistent with their education and poverty levels, more similar to non-Hispanic whites and African Americans.

   White women residing in the wealthiest California neighborhoods will live one year less than Latinas living in poor areas. In California, 25-year old White and African American high school dropouts were in 2008 likely to live ten years less than their Hispanic counterpart.

   Foreign-born Hispanics who immigrated to the United States "appear to be particularly healthy," having rates of several major chronic diseases equal to or lower than whites, another study says "Their health advantage is even more pronounced when we controlled for income and education."

This statement. If looked at it from a different angle, would read:: Poor American Whites with little education show particularly poor health if compared to foreign-born Hispanic immigrants.





   Top longevity in the US is attained by Asian Americans with an average of 86.67 years, followed by Hispanics with 82.89 years and Native Americans with 81.17 years. Whites stay way behind with 79.71 years and African Americans with a mere 75.54 years. At state level, the highest life expectancy is recorded for Asian American women in Massachusetts with 91.60 years.


   In international comparison, according to the 2010 United Nations World Population Prospects, the United States ranks 40th among nations (behind Cuba and Puerto Rico) with a life expectancy at birth of 77.97 years. Even if the US was inhabited only by Whites, it would gain merely 0.26 years and its ranking would not change.


   The White Paradox evidently requires more research to better identify and control the causes of the high mortality of this population group which affords one of the world's costliest health services and enjoys one of the highest per capita income levels. There are basically three possible explanations for the paradox:

      1. American medicine increases mortality instead of lowering it

      2. Rising per capita income raises mortality, for instance through lethal accidents

      3. Something is very wrong with the White life style in the US.

re 1: American medicine serves not only Whites but all races, plus numerous foreigners. Evidently successfully. Similar medicine is practiced in many countries with high life expectancy.


re 2: Other high income countries show low mortality. High income among African Americans – the lowest life expectancy group --can be accompanied by low accident rates, as is the case of the District of Columbia. Interestingly, the highest accident-prone state is West Virginia, a predominantly White state.


re 3: This is the only remaining explanation  (which is dscussed elsewhere in this magazine).

Surprisingly little public attention is devoted to the consequences of an apparently unhealthy life style. The loss in terms of years of life not lived is enormous, to the tune of five to ten percent of all White American years lived. Similarly huge is the loss for the US economy in terms of education under-exploited, medical treatment wasted, family life disrupted and retirement years reduced.


Heinrich von Loesch

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