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What is The Latino Paradox?

Nov 22, 2013

What is The Latino Paradox?

You already know that part of the appeal associated with living abroad, especially in Latin American countries, is the slower pace of life and easier option to eat clean, fresh food; namely fruit, veggies and seafood – if you’re along a coast. So what if you were to take those who grew up in that environment and put them in North America? Of course, this has been happening for many, many years… and continues to. It’s called immigration. But did you know there’s actually a phenomenon surrounding the health of those Latin Americans living in North America?

It’s called the ‘Latino paradox’.

Historically, educators and health officials have believed those with higher incomes and/or a formal education likely live longer and experience better health during their life, as opposed to those with less money and/or schooling. Although this trend holds true throughout the world – poor countries, rich countries, Europe, Asia, the Americas – there is a remarkable exception…

When looked at as a group, Latin American immigrants moving into diverse countries such as the US, Canada and Australia live longer then their native-born neighbors… even though immigrants tend to be less educated and are often more likely to live in poverty during their time living in these countries.

As a matter of fact, a 2006 study in the US found that life expectancy for those of Latin origin was 2.5 years higher then that of non-Latin Americans. An interesting point, especially if health and wellness is directly associated with cash flow and education levels. Hence the paradox… 

Untangling the Unknown

The Latino paradox is something that scholars have grappled with for the past 20 years. After all, if the US could increase its population’s lifespan by an additional couple of years, without spending billions on extra healthcare, it would be worth looking into, right? 

That being said, the most popular explanations to explain this paradox include: 

-    Strong religious faith. This is a point that has been proven again and again, in all parts of the world. Believing in something, anything, has been proven to reduce stress and increase overall wellbeing. With over 80% of Latin Americans having strong religious ties, it’s not hard to understand how this would help them after immigrating to a foreign land.

-    Remarkable resiliency. Moving to a new country to start a life, usually with limited collateral, takes extreme levels of energy and motivation. Two strong traits associated with a non-sedentary life.

-   Strong family ties. Although there are many non-Latin Americans with strong family ties, those hailing from Latin America tend to be more consistent with maintaining family tradition and closeness. In addition, it’s extremely rare to see nursing homes or similar facilities in Latin American countries… this is because families take care of their elderly directly within their own homes; sending aging family members off to a ‘home’ is deeply frowned upon.

-    Food and lifestyle. Although traditional foods and inadvertent exercise may fall by the wayside in the ‘want/need it right now’ mentality of the US, many Latin Americans will maintain a semblance of how they grew up – nutritious homemade foods, fresh fruit and veggies and walking to the market.

All of these notions are conceivable reasons as to why Latin Americans live longer lives when they move abroad, and give clout to the existence of the Latino Paradox. But an interesting side note; this paradox applies to first-generation Latin Americans. As the generations continue, odds are that the attributes that make up the Latino Paradox will become diluted… with future generations more easily assimilating into their existing surroundings.

And so what about you? Are you educated and financially sound? For many, having an education and a steady income are not the secret to longevity… in fact, these can instead be catalysts for deteriorating health, financial collapse or worse. Stepping off the hamster wheel and into a world of a laid-back lifestyle and affordable, fresh food may be all you need to add an extra couple of years to your own life! We could call it the ‘Expat Paradox’…

Go HERE to learn more about moving abroad with Where International


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