Life Expectancy Disparity Between Whites, Blacks in California Persists, Report Says
White men in California live an average of seven years longer than black men, and white women in the state live an average of five years longer than black women, according to a study released on Wednesday by the Public Policy Institute of California, the Los Angeles Times reports (Engel, Los Angeles Times, 8/30). For the study, titled "Death in the Golden State," co-authors Helen Lee and Shannon McConville, both of the institute, examined 694,317 death certificates issued in California between 2000 and 2002 and compared the causes of death among the largest racial and ethnic groups in the state.
The study found that Hispanic men in California lived an average of two years longer than white men and that Hispanic women in the state lived an average of three years longer than white women. In addition, the study found that Asian men and women in California lived an average of five years longer than white men and women.
The study also found that:
- Asian men in California lived to an average age of 80, and Asian women lived to an average age of 85, with common causes of death that included heart disease, cancer, strokes and aneurysms;
- Hispanic men in California lived to an average age of 77, and Hispanic women lived to an average age of 83, with common causes of death that included heart disease, cancer and diabetes;
- White men in California lived to an average age of 75, and white women lived to an average age of 80, with common causes of death that included heart disease and cancer; and
- Black men in California lived to an average age of 68, and black women lived to an average age of 75, with common causes of death that included heart disease and cancer.
According to the study, although heart disease and cancer were common causes of death among all racial and ethnic groups in California, they affected whites and blacks at much higher rates than Asians and Hispanics (Olvera, San Jose Mercury News, 8/30). Men and women in all racial and ethnic groups in California with more than a high school education lived longer than those with less education, although disparities among whites and blacks remained for those with similar levels of education, the study found (Los Angeles Times, 8/30).
Lee said, "The leading killers are similar across groups. If you target the risk factors for those conditions -- and there are a lot of factors including family history, diet and exercise -- that might lead to improvements for all groups" (Barbassa, AP/Contra Costa Times, 8/30). "Clear racial and ethnic patterns emerge for many conditions," Lee said, adding, "A more detailed understanding of the patterns could help health officials develop strategies that both target the leading causes of death and reduce disparities between groups."
Ellen Wu, executive director of the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network, said, "I think information like this can help us get to the next step" in efforts to reduce disparities among racial and ethnic groups in the state (San Jose Mercury News, 8/30).
California Endowment President Robert Ross said, "The lion's share of what explains health status and life expectancy has to do with nonhealth care factors," adding, "That's when you get into the quality of the environment, poverty, racism and some messier factors" (Los Angeles Times, 8/30).
The study is available online (.pdf).