Premature mortality rates vary substantially in the United States by race and ethnicity. A study published this Wednesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) has found that premature deaths among adults in the United States of America are higher in whites and African Americans than in Latinos. Among the Latin Americans the rate was even lower for women than in men. These findings further consolidate the Latin American paradox.
Deaths occurring before the average age of death are commonly referred to as premature deaths. Currently average age of death for an American is 78 years. Previously, it has been projected that there would be a 10 percent increase in premature deaths of female white Americans and a 14 percent decrease in premature deaths of male white Americans during 2017 to 2030.
The study was funded by the Intramural Research Programs of the National Cancer Institute, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, and National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities within the National Institutes of Health.
The study’s objective was to observe whether premature death rates of American Latinos was higher or lower than other American populations and other Latin American countries. The participant cases included were 22 million deaths (14 million men and 8 million women) occurring in all individuals aged 20 to 64 years during January 2001 to December 2015. The cases included US Latino, African American, white, and Puerto Rican and 12 other Latin American populations.
The data was provided by World Health Organization Mortality Database. This descriptive cross-sectional study showed that American Latinos and several Latin American countries had the lowest premature death rate compared to US white populations, suggesting that there may be a broader Latin American paradox. The analysis also showed that highest premature mortality rates were observed among African American women and Belize’s population.
The Latin or Hispanic paradox refers to the epidemiological finding that despite having lower average income and education than white Americans, the Latinos tend to enjoy better health outcomes. Though the paradox is still poorly understood, the significant factor associated with the phenomenon appears to be the place of birth.
This raises the possibility that differing neonatal or birthing practices such as lack of breastfeeding combined with birth trauma imprinting (both common in American obstetrics) may be significant to understand this gap. Other scientists have suggested that low mortality rates of Hispanics can be due to slower rate of biological aging.
Since 1980, overall death rates have decreased and life expectancy has increased worldwide. Though this has been projected to continue, gains in life expectancy of the Americans has been anticipated to be the smallest among other groups. Premature death rates among Hispanics, African Americans, Asians and Pacific Islanders have decreased in the 21st century. However, the premature mortality rates among white Americans have increased over time.
The causes of this increase include accidental deaths, suicides, chronic liver disease and cirrhosis deaths. Other causes are accidental deaths due to unintentional drug poisonings, opioid, heroin and fentanyl overdoses.