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Study: Native Hawaiians have fewer healthy years than others

Native Hawaiians experience fewer years of good health compared with other ethnic groups in the state, a public health study found.

The study by University of Hawaii researchers published in the Asia Pacific Journal of Public Health found Native Hawaiians have 14 less years of healthy life than other groups.

The study was based on a self-reported survey that calculated the number of healthy years among the state's indigenous people and those with Caucasian, Filipino, Japanese, and Chinese heritages.

Life expectancy data is based on death records collected by the state health department and population estimates from the U.S. Census. Researchers subtracted the number of years each ethnic group reported spending in poor health.

The study found Native Hawaiians have 62.2 years of healthy life expectancy, compared with 75.9 years for Chinese, 74.8 for Japanese, 73.3 for Filipinos, and 72.1 years for Caucasian Hawaii residents.

Native Hawaiians also have the highest rates of chronic health conditions — including coronary heart disease, obesity, diabetes and certain cancers.

"Until we can fix those things, I imagine we'll continue to see a similar pattern," said Kathryn Braun, a University of Hawaii Manoa public health professor.

Although all ethnic groups are living longer and life expectancy has improved since 1950, a 10-year gap remains between Native Hawaiians and the longest-living group at any given time, she said.

"Differences in life expectancy are determined by many things but primarily by socioeconomic status," Braun said.

A 2017 U.S. Census Bureau projected Native Hawaiians across the United States are living to about 80 years old, compared with 76.6 years in Hawaii.

"It's very hard to stay healthy if you're houseless or living in your car. If we had adequate housing, education and health care for all we would see those gaps diminish significantly," Braun said.

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