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More Latinos than whites die before age 45 due to higher rates of diabetes, HIV, liver disease, and homicide

Higher rates of diabetes, HIV infection, liver disease, and homicide are the primary reasons that more Latinos than whites die before the age of 45. Diabetes alone accounts for between 33 and 62 percent of the years of potential life lost among Latinos compared with whites. Whites, on the other hand, who smoke cigarettes more than Latinos, lose more years due to lung cancer, according to a study supported in part by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (HS10858). Targeting these problems could help eliminate health disparities between Latinos and whites, advise the University of California, Los Angeles researchers who conducted the study.

They linked 1986-1994 data on 24 health problems among members of U.S. households from the National Health Interview Survey to data on the cause of death from the National Death Index through December 1997. They estimated years of potential life lost from age 25 until age 75 or death, after adjusting for sex, education, recent HIV mortality trends, and emigration. Overall, Latinos had higher mortality rates than whites before age 45 and similar mortality rates at older ages. Before age 75, Latino women lost 315 more years of potential life (per 1,000 persons) than white women, while Latino men lost 595 more years (per 1,000 persons) than white men.

Both white men and women, however, lost substantially more years of potential life than Latinos from lung cancer. Contributing most to excess years of potential life lost among Latino men were homicide (267 years per 1,000 persons), diabetes (193 years), HIV (113 years), and liver disease (103 years). Contributors among women were diabetes (105 years) and HIV (49 years).

See "Differences in cause-specific mortality between Latino and white adults," by Mitchell D. Wong, M.D., Ph.D., Tomoko Tagawa, M.D., Hsin-Ju Hsieh, M.S., and others, in the October 2005 Medical Care 43(10), pp. 1058-1062.

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