The ‘Hispanic Paradox’ Explained: Faith and Family Key to Longevity Advantage for Latinos

Tags: Currents Brooklyn, NY, Crux, Faith, Family, Hispanic, Hispanic Catholics, Inspiration, Jornada, Latino, Media, Queens, NY

By Franca Braatz  

You’re listening to the sounds of the Jornada, a Catholic movement made up of young people who come together to celebrate their faith as they navigate their lives.

Their journey may help to solve a mystery known as the “Hispanic Paradox.” Princeton University Professor Noreen Goldman studies it.

‘It represents the fact that Hispanics live longer than whites in the United States,” she explains.

They will live 3.3 years longer than those who are white according to the CDC, and seven years longer than Black Americans, even though they face more socioeconomic challenges and have less access to quality health care. 

“Hispanics have better health related behaviors than whites, predominantly they are less likely to smoke than whites, but some have also argued that better diets are part of the differential that we see,” Goldman told Currents News.

Experts are also looking at the power of prayer. An American Heart Journal study found that prayer triggers a relaxation response that can help prevent chronic diseases. 

“Another argument is that Hispanics have more extensive social networks, better social support through family, friends, or church than whites,” added Goldman. 

That’s no surprise to Sinsi Hernández-Cancio, who leads the Health Justice team at the National Partnership for Women and Families in Washington D.C.

“That social connectivity which churches are very good at promoting is very important for any one, any family in any community to be able to navigate all of the challenges of living in the United States,” she explained. 

Father Manuel de Jesus Rodríguez knows those challenges first hand as the new pastor of Our Lady of Sorrows church in Corona, Queens, a predominantly Hispanic parish.

“They are spiritually united with their family because of our faith,” he said. “You might have heard Latinos have a lot of health issues, not too much money, they struggle in many ways but Latinos got something. Latinos got a big heart”

“They’ve got a big, wonderful approach to joy and enjoying life, too.”

Another explanation, Hernández-Cancio argues, may have more to do with immigration than with the Hispanic population specifically. 

“When people come to this country, Hispanic or otherwise, they’re coming in generally healthier with better diets. Being an immigrant is a self-selective thing. You have to have a lot of get up and go and energy and health to come to this country to start a new life,” she explained.  

Those newly arrived immigrants – especially Hispanics – are using faith and family to help them overcome the challenges of their newcomer status.

‘Latinos in general tend to be much more focused on family no matter what,” says Hernández-Cancio. “You know, hate the sin but love the sinner. Latinos very much tend to be known for supporting their young people, in whatever situations they may be in.”

The community supports young people like the members of the Jornada movement, who choose to strengthen their faith through fellowship and cultural expression.

“It’s that fellowship. It’s that Latino culture in us, family-oriented, that we have. So no matter who comes, we already welcome them with open arms,” noted Juan Rosa, a member of the movement. 

“It reels them in,” added member Joey Ortega, “whether it be through music, whether it be through performance art, whether it be through dance.”

“To be able to bond, especially with the faith that we have,” is important, Eliza Bermejo, a member of the Jornada movement explained. “We bond with our religion, we bond with our love for God, and it’s something beautiful.

“It helps us grow as a family, especially because we’re a Latino community,” added Ignacio Valdez,, another member.  

The Latino community has been especially hard hit by the ongoing pandemic, and their mortality advantage has suffered because of it. But, there’s hope the effects will be temporary. 

“Faith makes us joyful and hopeful,” reminds Fr. Rodríguez. “I think that makes life a little bit better & happier.”