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Residing in Strong Ethnic Neighborhoods Can Boost Health of Elderly: Study

Update Date: Nov 21, 2012 08:29 AM EST

Living in an ethnically homogenous neighborhood may be good for the health of African-American and Mexican-American seniors, suggests a new study from the Mailman School of Public Health. The study claims that residing in an ethnically homogeneous community reduces their risk of contracting cancer or heart disease.

Contrary to earlier studies, the researchers found that "living in the barrio or ethnically dense communities isn't always bad for your health," said Kimberly Alvarez, a Ph.D. candidate at Mailman who conducted the study with Becca Levy, associate professor of epidemiology and psychology at the Yale School of Public Health, according to Medical Xpress.

For the study, the researchers analyzed survey data from 2,367 Mexican-Americans and 2,790 African-Americans aged 65 and above, living in communities with a high concentration of residents from the same ethnic background.

The findings of the study revealed that among African-Americans, senior citizens who lived in a community with an ethnic density of 50 percent or more were 46 percent less likely to report doctor-diagnosed heart disease and 77 percent less likely to report cancer, when compared to people who resided in communities with an ethnic density of less than 25 percent.

In the case of Mexican-Americans, those who lived among an ethnic density of 50 percent or more were 33 percent and 62 percent less likely to report heart disease and cancer, respectively, when compared to those who resided in a community with an ethnic density of less than 25 percent.

The possible explanation for the phenomenon could be cultural factors such as respect for elders and close-knit families, the study explains.

"These networks may facilitate better health behaviors and, in turn, better health outcomes," Alvarez said.

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