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Journal of Aging Research
Volume 2011, Article ID 701232, 8 pages
Research Article

Why Are Native Hawaiians Underrepresented in Hawai‘i's Older Adult Population? Exploring Social and Behavioral Factors of Longevity

1Myron B. Thompson School of Social Work, University of Hawai‘i, 1800 East-West Road, Honolulu, HI 96822, USA
2Office of Public Health Studies, University of Hawai‘i, Honolulu, HI 96822, USA
3Myron B. Thompson School of Social Work and Center on Aging, University of Hawai‘i, Honolulu, HI 96822, USA

Received 31 March 2011; Accepted 1 July 2011

Academic Editor: Peter Martin

Copyright © 2011 Lana Sue Ka‘opua et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Native Hawaiians comprise 24.3% of Hawai‘i's population, but only 12.6% of the state's older adults. Few published studies have compared health indicators across ethnicities for the state's older adult population or focused on disparities of Native Hawaiian elders. The current study examines data from two state surveillance programs, with attention to cause of death and social-behavioral factors relevant to elders. Findings reveal that Native Hawaiians have the largest years of productive life lost and the lowest life expectancy, when compared to the state's other major ethnic groups. Heart disease and cancer are leading causes of premature mortality. Native Hawaiian elders are more likely to report behavioral health risks such as smoking and obesity, live within/below 100–199% of the poverty level, and find cost a barrier to seeking care. Indicated is the need for affordable care across the lifespan and health services continuum. Future research might explain behavioral factors as influenced by social determinants, including historical trauma on Native Hawaiian longevity.