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CDC report: Puerto Ricans fare worst among Hispanics in key health and death statistics

05/05/2015 01:08 EDT | Updated 05/05/2016 05:59 EDT
NEW YORK, N.Y. - Among Hispanic groups in the United States, Puerto Ricans appear to have the worst health, according to a government report released Tuesday.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued its most comprehensive report on Hispanic health, drawing from earlier research. But it also offered new details on differences among Hispanic populations in the U.S. About 1 in 6 Americans is Hispanic.

Among the findings:

—Puerto Ricans have higher rates of cancer and heart disease than Mexican-Americans, Cuban-Americans, or those with roots in Central or South America.

—Compared to Mexican-Americans and Cuban-Americans, Puerto Ricans have the highest death rates from cancer, heart disease, homicide and five other leading causes.

—Hispanics, as a whole, have a substantially lower cigarette smoking rate than whites. But the Puerto Rican smoking rate is the highest among Hispanics, and as high as the national average.

The higher smoking rate is driving up the Puerto Rican death and disease rates.

"We think it's the biggest reason" why Puerto Ricans look so unhealthy compared to other Hispanics, said the CDC's Dr. Ken Dominguez, lead author of the report.

The analysis was specific to Hispanics living in the 50 states and did not include residents of Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory. The data used for the report came from health surveys and death certificates and covered the years 2009 through 2013.

Puerto Ricans represent about 10 per cent of the U.S. Hispanic population. Mexican-Americans account for 64 per cent, Cuban-Americans are 4 per cent, Dominicans, 3 per cent.

In the U.S., Hispanics overall live longer than whites or blacks. Researchers call that the "Hispanic paradox," in which a population with a larger share of poor and uneducated people manages to surpass the life the expectancy of other groups. One leading theory is that Hispanics who immigrate to the U.S. are among the healthiest from their countries. The paradox also may be at least partly due to lower smoking rates in immigrant Hispanics, CDC officials said.

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Online:

CDC report: http://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns

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