The health of Hispanics in the southwestern United States: an epidemiologic paradox

Public Health Rep. May-Jun 1986;101(3):253-65.


Recent reports in the literature on the health status of southwestern Hispanics, most of whom are Mexican Americans, are reviewed critically. The review is organized into the following sections: infant mortality, mortality at other ages, cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes, other diseases, interview data on physical health, and mental health. Despite methodological limitations of much of the research, it can be concluded with some certainty that the health status of Hispanics in the Southwest is much more similar to the health status of other whites than that of blacks although socioeconomically, the status of Hispanics is closer to that of blacks. This observation is supported by evidence on such key health indicators as infant mortality, life-expectancy, mortality from cardiovascular diseases, mortality from major types of cancer, and measures of functional health. On other health indicators, such as diabetes and infectious and parasitic diseases, Hispanics appear to be clearly disadvantaged relative to other whites. Factors explaining the relative advantages or disadvantages of Hispanics include cultural practices, family supports, selective migration, diet, and genetic heritage. The recently completed Hispanic Health and Nutrition Examination Survey will go a long way to provide answers to many questions regarding the health of Hispanics in the Southwest or elsewhere.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • African Americans
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / epidemiology
  • Dental Care
  • Diabetes Mellitus / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Health Status Indicators*
  • Health Surveys*
  • Hispanic or Latino*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Mortality
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Life Expectancy
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Morbidity
  • Mortality
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Research
  • Risk
  • Sex Factors
  • Whites