Conventional wisdom holds that the wealthier and more educated you are, the longer you live. That means in Orange County whites should generally live longer than Latinos.
But that is not the case, according to the county’s most recent life expectancy statistics.
Among races, Latinos have the second-highest life expectancy in Orange County, 83 years, with Asian/Pacific Islanders in first place at 85, according to “Life Expectancy in Orange County.”
So what gives Orange County’s Latinos the edge over blacks and whites?
“It’s well-known at the state and national level — the Latino health paradox,” said Curtis Condon, an expert with the Orange County Health Care Agency and coauthor of the report.
One theory of Latino longevity cites immigration. “Santa Ana has a large immigrant community,” Condon said. “Folks that immigrate tend to be healthier and younger, which reduces premature mortality.”
What about diabetes and other chronic illnesses in Santa Ana?
“Diabetes is a big problem in Orange County, including in the Hispanic population … but it accounts for only 4 percent of Hispanic peoples’ deaths,” Condon said.
In another finding from the county’s experts, African-Americans have slightly higher life expectancy in Orange County than that of whites — 80.4 and 80.3 years respectively. In Los Angeles, however, black life expectancy is 74 years and lower than whites’, Condon said.
“We attribute that to [Orange County] having higher socioeconomic status through education and income and higher access to healthcare, whereas in Los Angeles the leading cause of death of black males is violence and homicide,” Condon said.
In general, Orange County residents’ lifespan is on the rise, increasing from 77 in 1990 to 82 in 2008. But there is variation according to location. Where you live in the county correlates with how long you are likely to live, according to the statistics.
Buena Park, for example, has the lowest life expectancy among cities in Orange County, 79 years, but residents in San Juan Capistrano can expect to live to 85.
Generally, South County residents have higher life expectancies than their neighbors to the north, the report says, attributing the breakdown to higher levels of education and wealth.
— AMY DePAUL