Patterns of Health Risk

General Health Status

Our knowledge of the determinants of healthy aging in the Hispanic/Latino population is expanding because of increased attention to ethnicity in health reporting and health disparities (Stevens & Cousineau, 2007). Recognizing the heterogeneity of the population reported as “Hispanic”, it is expected that some heterogeneity exists in terms of health status as well as culture, history, and socioeconomic status. Data from the National Health Interview Survey collected between 1992 and 1995 were used to compare several health status outcomes in the Hispanic sub-groups (Hajat, Lucas, & Kingston, 2000).

Health indicators for persons of Puerto Rican descent were significantly worse than those of other Hispanic origin sub-groups. For example, 21% of Puerto Rican persons reported having an activity limitation compared to 15% and 14% for Cuban and Mexican persons. Data in 2005–2006 showed that older Hispanics engaged less in physical activity compared to non-Hispanic White and black elderly (Federal Interagency Forum on Related Statistics, 2008).

Ethnic differences in self-assessed health may not accurately reflect patterns resulting from objective health measurements. Older non-Hispanic white men and women report their health to be good compared to elderly Hispanic and African Americans (Federal Interagency Forum on Related Statistics, 2008). In this same report male Latinos over the age of 85 had the lowest health ratings. The San Luis Valley Health and Aging Study compared self-rated health in Hispanics and Non-Hispanic Whites (NHW) in southern Colorado (Shetterly, Baxter, Morgenstern, Grigsby, & Hamman, 1996). Illness indicators were strongly correlated with self-rated health in both ethnic groups.

After various confounders were controlled for, Hispanics remained much more likely to report fair or poor health as opposed to excellent or good health than NHW (OR 3.6; 95% CI 2.4–5.3). Adjustments for socioeconomic factors accounted for a portion of the Hispanic’s lower health rating, but the strongest explanatory factor was acculturation.