Diversity may be fatal, says new government health study

Diversity may be killing older African-Americans and Hispanics, according to a new peer-reviewed study published in the America Journal of Public Health, which shows that people suffer less cancer and heart disease when they live among their racial or ethnic peers.

“Living in an ethnically dense neighborhood is beneficial when it comes to heart disease and cancer,” said Kimberly Alvarez, a co-author of the new study, which was funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Alvarez’s phrase, “ethnically dense,” describes a community in which at least 50 percent of people are from the same ethnic group.

Many progressive groups advocate the use of government to increase diversity in housing, education, health care and other sectors.

Alvarez’s study reviewed the health records of 2,367 Mexican-Americans and 2,790 African-Americans older than 65, and concluded they lived longer if they inhabited a community mostly populated by their group.

African-Americans “living in a county with an ethnic density of 50% or more … were 46% less likely to report doctor-diagnosed heart disease and 77% less likely to report cancer than those who lived in an ethnic density of less than 25%,” said a summary of the report, authored by Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. (RELATED: Living in an Ethnically Homogenous Neighborhood Boosts Health of U.S. Minority Seniors)

The Mexican-Americans in the study “were 33% and 62% less likely to report heart disease and cancer, respectively,” when more than half of their neighbors were similar to them ethnically.

The reduced death rate in “ethnically dense” neighborhoods may occur because similar neighbors are “likely to share values like respect for elders and have close-knit family structures,” said Becca Levy, a study co-author and an associate professor of Epidemiology and Psychology at the Yale School of Public Health.

Earlier studies showed high levels of social support within communities of Hispanic immigrants, said Alvarez, and “these networks may facilitate better health behaviors and, in turn, better health outcomes.”