New Study Challenges the Decades-Old ‘Hispanic Paradox’

By Tamara Thomas - June 9, 2023

Researchers are beginning to question the decades-long belief that Hispanics, despite socioeconomic disadvantages, present better or similar health outcomes than their White counterparts. This phenomenon is termed the Hispanic paradox.

The Hispanic paradox has been widely recognized since 1986, when researchers Kyriakos Markides, PhD, and Jeannine Coreil, PhD, MA, from the University of Texas at Austin published their analysis with studies ranging over 2 decades. Their review shows Hispanics fared better in key health indicators, including death due to cardiovascular diseases and certain cancers, than non-Hispanics despite adverse socioeconomic circumstances.

Researchers cannot fully explain the Hispanic paradox even 40 years later. However, some studies suggest that certain factors benefit Hispanics such as diet, lower smoking rates, and strong family ties.

In a study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine lead author Olveen Carrasquillo, MD, MPH, and his team concluded that their study “did not support [the Hispanic paradox].”

Dr. Carrasquillo and his colleagues used medical record data from the All of Us national research program, a database including over 200,000 participants. Of this population, roughly 40,000 were Hispanic.

The researchers observed that 6.1% of Hispanic women developed heart disease compared with 7.7% of Black women and 3.9% of White women. They also observed that Hispanic men had a higher rate of heart disease (9.2%) compared to Black men at 8.1% and White men at 7.6%.

“That’s what we found, which is what I guess you’d expect, knowing what the rates of obesity are, the rates of diabetes, poorly controlled cholesterol, poorly controlled blood pressure, and limited access to care,” said Dr. Carrasquillo.

Despite the study’s findings, Dr. Carrasquillo and the team did not outrightly reject the Hispanic paradox. “I don’t want to say it’s not a real thing because it’s just one study. And I can’t say, ‘Hey, after 30 years of data, it turns out we were wrong,” said Dr. Carrasquillo.

Dr. Carrasquillo and his team intend to conduct further research, including examining how health outcomes may vary among the various Hispanic nationalities, which studies typically don’t observe.

According to the researchers, the key message is that Hispanic individuals, just like everyone else, should try to adopt healthy eating habits and exercise regularly.

Source: AHA

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