clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Hispanics have lower death rates than whites or blacks. Here's what's behind the numbers.

A new report from the National Center for Health Statistics says death rates have fallen overall for this group, giving them a higher life expectancy than most whites and blacks.

This Aug. 29, 2018, file photo shows an arrangement of Oxycodone pills in New York. A new study shoots down the notion that medical marijuana laws can prevent opioid overdose deaths. Chelsea Shover of Stanford University School of Medicine and colleagues
This Aug. 29, 2018, file photo shows an arrangement of Oxycodone pills in New York. A new study shoots down the notion that medical marijuana laws can prevent opioid overdose deaths. Chelsea Shover of Stanford University School of Medicine and colleagues reported the findings Monday, June 10, 2019, in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Mark Lennihan, Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY — Hispanic adults in the United States have higher life expectancy compared to non-Hispanic whites and non-Hispanic blacks, two groups for which a trend of decreasing death rates has plateaued.

That's according to data released Tuesday by the National Center for Health Statistics in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The report says the age-adjusted death rate for Hispanic adults over 25 "generally declined" from 2000 to 2017, but the rates for non-Hispanic blacks and non-Hispanic whites stopped dropping around 2012 and have been flat since then.

And while the death rate for Hispanic adults was always lower than for the other two groups, the gap has widened. At the same time, the gap in the death rates between non-Hispanic whites and non-Hispanic blacks has narrowed.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the report "adds new detail to a grim picture of worsening health trends across the nation, as the opioid epidemic and stalled progress against heart disease have dragged down life expectancy."

That article notes that some of the longevity benefit to Hispanics is being diluted as the opioid epidemic impacts young adults in that segment of the population.

"People are just now starting to recognize that the opioid epidemic is not just a white phenomenon,” Andrew Fenelon, an assistant professor of health policy and management at the University of Maryland, told The Wall Street Journal.

The findings are in line with a recent report on research by University of Pennsylvania demographers published in the journal Population and Development Review. It said that "for the better part of a century, life expectancy in industrialized countries like the United States steadily improved. But during the past three decades — and particularly since 2010 — the trend has slowed or, in some places, reversed for non-Hispanic white populations in the U.S. It’s been especially stark for 25- to 44-year-olds and for women, as well as in rural communities."

Those researchers wrote that "over the last quarter-century, we have witnessed growing geographic inequalities in mortality in the United States. Two notable features of the last 25 years are the sizable increase in life expectancy in large central metros and the slow improvement or decline, especially among women, in nonmetro areas."

They point out that deaths from cardiovascular diseases and lung cancer are down, but "mortality from drug overdose, suicide, and alcohol‐related causes of death, which largely comprise a 'deaths of despair' category, increased and contributed to life expectancy reductions."

The CDC report also details the breakdown by age: Death rates have increased for all racial and ethnic groups ages 25-44, while the next-oldest age category, 45-64, was flat for Hispanic adults and went up for the other two groups between 2011 and 2017. The increase was greatest among non-Hispanic white adults.

As for older Americans, all groups over 65 saw death rates decline, but the percentage was greatest for non-Hispanic blacks.