Introduction: This study examines the prevalence of five major chronic health conditions – heart disease, stroke, cancer, arthritis, and diabetes – among adults 18 years of age and older in the United States between 1999 and 2011.
Methods: The data used in this report come from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Center for Health Statistics, Health Data Interactive tables. Patterns were examined by age structure among the four largest race/ethnic groups in the U.S., and among the two largest Latino subgroups in the U.S. (Mexicans and Puerto Ricans)
Results: Latinos had higher rates of diabetes than did non-Hispanic whites and Asians, with no change in the disparity between those rates from 1999 to 2011. Latinos had lower rates of heart disease than did non-Hispanic whites and non-Hispanic blacks. The Latino population had lower rates of arthritis than did non-Hispanic whites and non-Hispanic blacks. The comparatively high rates of diabetes but low rates of heart disease and arthritis among Latinos may be due to the younger age structure of the Latino population in the United States. Mexicans had lower rates of all five chronic conditions examined in this report – heart disease, stroke, cancer, arthritis, and diabetes – than did Puerto Ricans.
Discussion: The lower rates of chronic conditions among Mexicans compared to Puerto Ricans may be explained by a lack of health care access among Mexicans. Mexicans may have lower rates than Puerto Ricans simply because their chronic conditions go undiagnosed and so are underreported. Other possible reasons for the differences in rates between Mexicans and Puerto Ricans – nativity, exercise, poverty rates, and age structure – did not explain the differences.