For the first time in two years, I went to the doctor for a physical. My numbers are good, except that my blood pressure is borderline high. My doctor recommended that I lower my stress, which I will do as soon as I leave planet Earth and fly off to a marvelous wonderland of peace and love and dancing fairies.
Yes, Doc, I’ll get right on that.
In any case, I’m in better shape than a lot of people my age, especially my fellow Latinos. You see, a recent study has found that many Hispanics have heart issues, and no, the cause isn’t all those sad Spanish ballads. Researchers believe that “feeling stigmatized, threatened or discriminated against correlates with structural heart abnormalities in Latinos”—meaning that racism is not just infuriating, it is literally lethal.
This condition increases the odds of stroke, heart attack, and other not-so-good health effects. The study is the latest that acknowledges “the negative effects of discrimination on physical wellbeing, and the American Medical Association has identified racism as a public health threat.”
Adding to the psychological toll of just being Latino in America, there is the fact that loneliness has become an epidemic, with Hispanics getting the worst of it. Surveys show that 30 percent of Hispanic adults “have one or no trusted people” in their lives, while just 14 percent of White adults say the same. Of course, loneliness and social isolation are linked to serious health conditions, and they form “a key barrier to recovery from the social, emotional, and economic fallout of the pandemic.”
As one survey respondent, a socially isolated Latino man, says of living in America: “It’s not always welcoming for Hispanics here.”
Well, tell us something we don’t know, compadre.
And if you thought you could just retreat to the safety of your non-gentrified barrio, think again. Another study has shown that “Latinos have a higher life expectancy and earn more yearly income when they live in racially mixed neighborhoods compared to areas that are predominantly Black or Latino.”
Basically, if you are Latino and are surrounded by other ethnic minorities, you are more likely to earn less and die earlier. The reason is because “segregation remains one of the principal causes of group-based inequality, by separating people from life-enhancing resources, such as good schools, healthy environments, and access to jobs.”
OK, this is all pretty grim. Is there any group that has it worse off health-wise than Latinos?
It seems that “for White Americans between 45 and 54, average life expectancy [is] actually declining—in a pattern seen almost nowhere else on Earth.” Furthermore, this “reversal has come almost entirely among White Americans without a four-year college degree.”
If you read that paragraph and thought, “Trump’s base,” you are not alone.
Data shows that “residents of northeastern and western states (which generally vote Democratic) are living longer and healthier lives while in the GOP-voting South and Appalachia, life expectancies have stagnated” or declined.
There are many reasons for this, such as the fact that blue-state Americans have far greater access to health care and invest more in education, day care, and other safety net programs. Also, liberal states more strictly “regulate handguns, which means fewer of their residents die from gun violence.” And while we’re at it, Medicaid benefits are more generous in blue states.
Other research has shown that White Americans, particularly in red states, “are drinking themselves to death, or poisoning themselves with drugs, or shooting or hanging themselves” at much higher rates than in the past.
Add it up, and it’s debatable who is in worse condition: Latinos, or conservative White people.
This is almost enough to make you wish for some kind of national healthcare system that would serve all the nation’s residents for a lot less money. But of course, that would be “socialism.” So we would rather die in the street, thanks.
In the meantime, you really should get that nagging cough checked out, just in case.