Ethnic Inequalities in Mortality: The Case of Arab-Americans

El-Sayed, Abdulrahman M.; Tracy, Melissa S.; Scarborough, Peter; Galea, Sandro

Although nearly 112 million residents of the United States belong to a non-white ethnic group, the literature about differences in health indicators across ethnic groups is limited almost exclusively to Hispanics. Features of the social experience of many ethnic groups including immigration, discrimination, and acculturation may plausibly influence mortality risk. We explored life expectancy and age-adjusted mortality risk of Arab-Americans (AAs), relative to non-Arab and non-Hispanic Whites in Michigan, the state with the largest per capita population of AAs in the US.
Methodology/Principal Findings: Data were collected about all deaths to AAs and non-Arab and non-Hispanic Whites in Michigan between 1990 and 2007, and year 2000 census data were collected for population denominators. We calculated life expectancy, age-adjusted all-cause, cause-specific, and age-specific mortality rates stratified by ethnicity and gender among AAs and non-Arab and non-Hispanic Whites. Among AAs, life expectancies among men and women were 2.0 and 1.4 years lower than among non-Arab and non-Hispanic White men and women, respectively. AA men had higher mortality than non-Arab and non-Hispanic White men due to infectious diseases, chronic diseases, and homicide. AA women had higher mortality than non-Arab and non-Hispanic White women due to chronic diseases. Conclusions/Significance: Despite better education and higher income, AAs have higher age-adjusted mortality risk than non-Arab and non-Hispanic Whites, particularly due to chronic diseases. Features specific to AA culture may explain some of these findings.

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February 17, 2014