The reasons for the decline remain unclear, but researchers offered possible explanations, including a spike in prescription drug overdoses among young whites, higher rates of smoking among less educated white women, rising obesity, and a steady increase in the number of the least educated Americans who lack health insurance.
White men lacking a high school diploma lost three years of life. Life expectancy for both blacks and Hispanics of the same education level rose, the data showed. But blacks over all do not live as long as whites, while Hispanics live longer than both whites and blacks.
Some researchers say that the results may be overstated because there are actually fewer whites without high school diplomas today, down from 12 to 22 percent in 1990. The researcher, Professor Olshansky does not refute this but says:
the magnitude of the drop in life expectancy was still a measure of deterioration. “The good news is that there are fewer people in this group,” he said. “The bad news is that those who are in it are dying more quickly.”
I wonder about the Hispanic subgroup and suspect is this were further analyzed by generational status or length of recency in this country if we would see U.S.-born Latinos/Mexicans as similar to poor whites or blacks since cultural assimilation, among other things, also means assimilating to behaviors that can compromise their health. A number of researchers, including UCLA's David Hayes Bautista has documented this in the area of health. Falls under what today is referred to as "the Latino Paradox" which is not really so much a paradox but reflective of the diverse generational/acculturational composition of the Latino population.
Finally, this argues for the merits of universally accessible health care and higher educational opportunities that the middle- and upper-classes, particularly whites, have enjoyed to a much greater extent if we are to improve the health of our nation.