"Latino health" seems to be as complex a term as "Latino."
Two new studies appearing in the Journal of Women's Health and the American Journal of Men's Health found significant differences in health trends among the three biggest Latino groups in the U.S.: Puerto Rican-Americans, Cuban-Americans and Mexican-Americans.
At last census, these three groups made up more than 15 percent of the nation's population. In South Los Angeles, Latinos account for about 57 percent of the people who live there.
Researchers looked at the overall health of men and women in these ethnic groups, as well as how they used health care services. They found that factors like education, work and location played a role in folks' health habits, but the study also has interesting implications for how – or whether – a person's race affects her or his health.
In a statement, Amy Ai, who conducted both studies, said "cross-subcultural differences" within Latino groups "may contribute to the different patterns in both physical and mental health."
In other words, there may be elements of, say, Cuban culture that don't exist in Mexican culture. Those elements, then, clearly won't play a role in the health of Mexicans.
Here's what the research teams found on women:
– Asthma: Puerto Rican-Americans reported the highest rates of this condition, followed by Cuban-Americans. Mexican-Americans reported a considerably lower rate.
– Diabetes: Mexican-Americans reported the highest rates.
– High blood pressure and heart disease: Cuban-Americans reported the highest rates.
– Obesity: About two-thirds of Mexican-Americans and Puerto Rican-Americans reported being overweight or obese, as did more than half of Cuban-Americans.
– Tobacco and marijuana: Puerto Rican-Americans reported the highest rates of smoking both cigarettes and pot.
– Health care: All three groups said they see a health provider pretty infrequently, but Puerto Rican-Americans used mental health services more than any other group; the same was true for Cuban-Americans and medical specialists.
As for the men:
– Puerto Rican-Americans have the highest rates of eight ailments, one of which is heart disease. About 20 percent have asthma, which is almost double or quadruple the rates for Cuban- and Mexican-American men. Of the three groups, Puerto Rican-Americans have the highest rates of depression, smoking and substance abuse.
– Cuban-Americans have rates of heart disease and cancer similar to those found in Puerto Rican-American men.
– Health care: All three groups said they don't often see doctors, whether for primary or specialty care.
In South L.A., Mexican and Salvadoran are among the most common ancestries for Latinos, according to the L.A. Times Mapping L.A. project.
Photo by Mike Young via Flickr Creative Commons.