March 29, 2021
Despite being the fastest-growing minority group in the United States, Hispanics are routinely underrepresented in scientific and public health studies. Along with other minority groups, Hispanics face challenges – both structural and socioeconomic – that are generally understood to correlate with poor health outcomes. However, the literature to date finds that Hispanics actually experience better health and greater longevity than non-Hispanics, including non-Hispanic Whites, in spite of the disadvantages. Scholars hypothesize that cultural factors may serve to moderate the harms that would ordinarily come from the structural and socioeconomic risk factors experienced by Hispanics.
Researchers, led by Dr. Melissa Flores of the University of Arizona, specifically examined whether marriage yielded an enhancing effect on the mortality advantage among Hispanic women. Previous research has more broadly identified a reliably strong relationship between marriage or marriage-like relationships and lower mortality and better economic outcomes. Dr. Flores and colleagues utilized the longitudinal data from WHI clinical trial and observational study participants (N = 158,814), specifically using the participant’s reported marital status at baseline along with WHI-collected outcomes data to ascertain mortality. The authors studied 1) whether Hispanic ethnicity was protective when compared to other race-ethnicities; and 2) whether marriage or marriage-like relationships among Hispanic women were found to be protective factors against mortality.
The analyses, which utilized models with varying controls for socioeconomic and health factors, indicated that postmenopausal Hispanic women experience a mortality advantage over other race-ethnicity groups except that of Asians/Pacific Islanders, among which mortality was found to be similar. On the other hand, the authors found no significant relationship between marital status and mortality specifically among Hispanic women included the analysis, contrary to the more generalized findings previously reported. Among both Hispanics and Asians/Pacific Islanders, the authors discuss the potentially positive impacts of collectivism and respect for elders, which may serve to enhance mortality advantages. In Hispanic societies specifically, it is noted that social and family networks are strongly maintained and valued, and are mobilized in times of need, which could be hypothesized to confer similar advantages to those observed in marriage. The authors conclude that additional study of resiliency factors among Hispanic populations may be beneficial.
These findings were published on January 15, 2021 in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine.
The WHI program is funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
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