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Study: Mexican American elders live longer, but often with a disability

March 27, 2015
by Sandra Hoban, Managing Editor
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Although Hispanics currently outpace other ethnicities in life expectancy, Mexican-born Americans will spend much of their later years with some form of disability, according to a new study published online in The Journals of Gerontology: Series B: Psychological and Social Sciences. Life expectancy for Mexican Americans is 81.4 years, about 78 years for whites and under 73 years for blacks.

Ronald J. Angel, PhD, and Jacqueline L. Angel, PhD, from the University of Texas at Austin, and Terence D. Hill, PhD, from the University of Arizona, used data from the Hispanic Established Populations for Epidemiologic Studies of the Elderly to look at changes in objective performance-oriented mobility assessments.

More than 3,000 Mexican-origin Americans were followed as they aged from 1993/1994 through 2011. Each participant was interviewed multiple times during the 17-year period.

Researchers found three distinct patterns of functional decline among the participants:

  1. High initial functioning followed by decline but not to the level of disability (48 percent).

  2. Moderate initial functioning followed by decline to the level of disability (37.5 percent, and

  3. Initial disability followed by continued poor functioning 14.5 percent.

Results also showed that less education and less financial stable participants were more likely to have functional decline.

“Our data show that though the family steps in to provide care to even seriously impaired older parents, we must develop policies and programs that complement the family in their ability to provide care to older infirm parents,” Jacqueline Angel said in an article.


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