Why are first generation Hispanics healthier?

Hispanic Americans experience lower rates of certain health issues compared to non-Hispanic whites, sometimes referred to as the “Hispanic paradox.”  The better performance in some key diseases appears to be present in first generation but not later generations.

Hispanic immigrants have lower all-cause, heart disease and cancer mortality compared to US-born non-Hispanic whites. However, US-born Hispanics had similar or worse mortality rates. The age-adjusted death rate for heart disease is about 30% lower.

Among low-income Hispanic subgroups in New York City, being foreign-born is associated with lower prevalence of multiple chronic diseases including cardiovascular disease, hypertension and diabetes. Hispanic patients have 13-30% lower diagnosis rates for five common cancers compared to non-Hispanic whites.

These better rates appear to disappear in second and later generations. Why? One explanation is diet – later generations eat more processed food. Also proposed is that the first generation has closer community and family ties, which presumably keep people healthy,  First generation Hispanics smoke less.  There is a proposal that those who immigration are self-selected relatively tougher, fitter.

The best analysis of the generation discrepancy is here.

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