Life Expectancy Paradox Explained by Smoking

People with greater income or formal education tend to live longer and enjoy better health.  The trend holds true wherever researchers look — in poor countries or rich ones, in Europe, Asia or the Americas — but two notable exceptions stand out.

  • Immigrants to countries as diverse as the U.S., Australia, Germany and Canada live longer than their new native-born neighbors even though they tend to be less well educated and more likely to live in poverty in those countries.
  • People of Hispanic descent (typically of Spanish, Mexican, Cuban, Puerto Rican, or Central or South American origin) live longer than non-Hispanic whites, who on average happen to be richer and better educated

What accounts for the two exceptions? Smoking.

Source: Scientific American

Comments (7)

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  1. Matt says:

    Very interesting. I wonder if any studies have been done on this subject.

  2. Brian Williams. says:

    C. Everett Koop may have guessed this was the case.

  3. Devon Herrick says:

    I just read an article about the Black Plague that struck Europe 600 years ago. Researchers found it is almost identical to the modern plague. What was different 600 years ago is Europeans were malnourished and in poor health. Nowadays the plague is not the killer it once was mostly because humans are stronger than in centuries past.

  4. Buster says:

    Nearly two-thirds of health status is related to lifestyle and behavior. If you do not indulge in excess calories, smoking and drinking, there is a good chance you will be in better health. People with more education know this. Yet, many poorly educated people have just enough money (or food stamps) that they consider these activities to be among the few things they can enjoy. There are also theories that poor people discount the future consequences of current behavior at a higher discount rate.

  5. Brian says:

    I wonder if the fast food diet could be factored in with smoking as something that accounts for the two exceptions. What needs to be known is, what groups eat fast foods the most?

  6. Floccina says:

    There are other factors for Hispanics one is a lower rate of multiple births.

  7. Linda Gorman says:

    One theory not discussed here, though it may be discussed in the article, is that immigrants are a self-selected group that tend to be healthier to start with.

    Plus, it is pretty funny that the article apparently consider Australia, Canada, Germany, and the United States to be a “diverse” group. They’re all industrialized, for heaven’s sake, and probably give more health care to poor immigrants than those people would have received in their home countries. Wonder what would happen if the same group of immigrants moved to, say, Somalia or North Korea.