Study Finds That Blacks Become Disabled From Chronic Conditions Faster Than Whites

A new study led by a researcher at Georgia State University in Atlanta finds that African Americans become disabled more quickly from chronic conditions compared to their White peers. The study investigated whether the risk of becoming functionally limited – the condition of becoming unable to perform simple, physical tasks – is more accelerated in African-Americans compared to Whites.

The research involved the cases 21,796 people between the ages of 51 and 61 during the 1994 to 2012 period. Participants in the study reported their difficulty with physical activities, including walking several blocks, sitting for two hours, pushing or pulling large objects, reaching or extending arms up, getting up from a chair, climbing several flights of stairs, climbing one flight of stairs and stooping, kneeling or crouching. Participants also reported whether they have been diagnosed with a chronic condition, including high blood pressure, diabetes, lung disease, arthritis, stroke or heart disease, and answered questions about their race/ethnicity and socioeconomic status.

“What we found is that at any given level of disease, African-Americans experienced greater risk of becoming functionally limited than Whites,” said Dr. Ben Lennox Kail, lead author of the study and assistant professor of sociology at Georgia State. “To put that a different way, the consequences of disease are greater for African-Americans in terms of the risk of becoming functionally limited than they are for Whites.”

The study found socioeconomic resources, such as education, income and insurance, did not account for racial differences in the relationship between chronic diseases and functional limitations. The researchers cite several possible reasons for the racial differences found in this study. African-Americans have lower access to quality healthcare and receive poorer care when they do have access to care compared to Whites. They are less likely to be screened for diseases, which decreases early detection.

The study, “Double Disadvantage in the Process of Disablement: Race as a Moderator in the Association Between Chronic Conditions and Functional Limitations,” was published in the website of The Journals of Gerontology: Series B. It may be accessed here.

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