For the first time ever, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services collected national life expectancy data for the Hispanic population and what they found is that Hispanics live longer than whites and blacks, USA Today reports.
According to a new report that came out Wednesday, the average life expectancy of a Hispanic baby born in 2006 was 80.6 years compared with 78.1 for whites, 72.9 for blacks and 77.7 for the total population. Hispanics outlive whites by 2.5 years on average and live 7.7 years longer than blacks.
But the question is, why? "I don't think anyone has a great idea," said Carl Haub, a demographer at the Population Reference Bureau. "We might want to see what Hispanics are doing and try to emulate them."
David Hayes Bautista, director of the Center for the Study of Latino Health and Culture at UCLA's David Geffen School of Medicine concurs. "We don't know," said Bautista. "We thought it was a problem in the data, but we can pretty much say this is real."
Particularly puzzling to scientists is how Hispanics are outliving other groups at every age despite a socioeconomic status lower than that of whites and despite the fact that Hispanics have higher rates of obesity, less education and more poverty than many other groups.
"Mortality is very correlated with income, education and health care access," said Elizabeth Arias, author of the report. "You would expect the Hispanic population would have higher mortality," in line with the black population."
At first scientists wondered if immigraton played a role in the longer life span of Hispanics, but they dismissed that theory because that would mean that all immigrant groups would live longer lives—not just Hispanics.
"It's clearly something in the Latino culture," says Bautista. "If this was the 'healthy migrant effect,' we would see it in all immigrant groups. It seems to be something in what Latinos do."
The “Hispanic Mortality Paradox” is nothing new. For decades scientists have been aware that Hispanics live longer lives, but for the first time ever the government has been able to obtain sufficient data to come up with national statistics.