The Hispanic Paradox

11 Dec

The growing numbers of ethnic seniors throughout the U.S. continue to experience a litany of problems when accessing services. Among them, language and cultural barriers, a fragmented service delivery system and a lack of properly trained bilingual staff with heavy case loads. But they have a big advantage – longevity despite their lack of access to healthcare, lack of health insurance, lack of education, acute poverty and obesity and diabetes rates that hover at epidemic levels, they live longer than any other group in the U.S. Hispanic men live an average of 80 years, 2 years longer than their white counterparts and Hispanic women live to be 85 years, 7 years longer than any other group. 33% of them have lower mortality rates from heart disease and 36% lower incidences of cancer.

Over one million individuals in Florida, that are over the age of 60, are Hispanic. An advantage of catering to Hispanic elders is what it is commonly called the “Hispanic” paradox. Hispanics, despite their socio-economic hurdles and lack of access to healthcare, live longer than blacks by seven years and whites by five years. Overall, Hispanic seniors are much healthier than expected. The reasons for this paradox are still a matter of debate. Many suggest that factors such as diet, comprised mostly of beans, rice, fruit and vegetables; lifestyle choices and strong social-support networks are key to understanding Hispanics’ better-than-expected health.
However, these benefits, that they bring with them, gets weakened in the U.S. Second generation Hispanics do not benefit from this longevity. Many argue that the reason is the fact that being in the U.S. produces a change in their diets and exercise routines. Researchers in the U.S. are perplexed about this phenomena but at the same time, they are studying the factors responsible for the longer life expectancy in the hope to arrive at a set of principles that will reduce disease rates for all racial and ethnic groups.

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