Feb. 13 (UPI) -- Residents of Latin American countries and U.S. citizens of Latin descent are less likely to die prematurely than white and black Americans, a new analysis has found.
In a study published Wednesday in JAMA Network Open, researchers found that several Latin American countries -- including Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Ecuador, Panama and Peru -- as well as Latin communities in the United States, had lower rates of premature death than those of other ethnic origins across the western hemisphere.
"We observed that death rates among adults aged 20 to 64 were lower among U.S. Latinos and populations in several Latin American countries, compared with rates among U.S. whites," study co-author Yingxi Chen, staff scientist in the NIH's Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, told UPI. "Nearly all the Latin American populations we studied had more rapid decreases in premature death rates in this age range between 2001and 2015, compared to U.S. whites.
The authors defined premature deaths as those occurring in adults between 20 and 64 years of age. Infant and child mortality was not included.
In all, more than 22 million premature deaths reported between 2001 and 2015 from across the Americas were included in the analysis.
Chen and colleagues found that, among women in 2015, U.S. Latins had the lowest premature mortality rates, at 144 per 100 000 population, while African-American women had the highest, at 340 per 100,000 population.
Meanwhile, premature mortality rates among U.S. white women went from the sixth lowest in 2001, at 231 per 100,000 population, to the ninth highest among the 16 populations included in the analysis, at 235 deaths per 100,000 population.
Overall, among males, those in Peru had the lowest premature mortality rates in 2015, at 219 per 100,000 population, while those in Belize had the highest, at 702 per 100,000 population. White men in the U.S. went from having the fifth lowest premature mortality rates in 2001, at 396 per 100,000 population, to the eighth lowest rates in 2015, at 394 per 100,000 population.
The new data shows premature mortality rates for both women and men decreased in all the populations studied from 2001 to 2015, except for white U.S. residents, whose rates "plateaued," and Nicaraguan men, whose rates increased slightly, the authors report.
Chen told UPI that the study focused only on trends and patterns in premature death and did not "identify individual or group-level information that may differentiate whether or not modifiable risk factors have influenced the observed rates."
"In our study, populations with the lowest premature death rates had lower rates for all major causes of death, particularly heart disease and cancer," he added. "It is well established that modifiable factors contribute to risk for incident heart disease and cancer, as well as death from these conditions.
"Other studies have identified some of the leading causes of premature death in the U.S. population, including accidental deaths, primarily drug overdoses caused by opioids; chronic liver disease and cirrhosis; and suicide," Chen added.