A new study has found that chronic stress caused by racism and impoverished neighborhood conditions is linked to poor heart health in older Black adults. The impact of these stressors varies by gender, with Black women being more affected by discrimination and Black men more affected by neighborhood safety.
The study aimed to understand the factors contributing to the stress experiences of Black individuals in order to improve cardiovascular health outcomes and reduce heart disease disparities. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, and Black individuals are more likely to develop risk factors for heart disease at earlier ages.
Researchers used data from the REGARDS project, analyzing survey responses and health information from over 7,500 people. They found that Black men had 27% lower odds of having better cardiovascular health than white men, while Black women had 55% lower odds than white women.
Discrimination explained 11% of the racial difference in heart health, and neighborhood conditions influenced this racial disparity at 6% for safety, 5% for physical features, and 1% for social connectedness within a neighborhood.
The study suggests that public health approaches to reduce heart disease disparities should target specific stressors. For Black women, addressing discrimination-related stressors is crucial, while for Black men, addressing the impact of neighborhood violence is important.
These findings emphasize the importance of considering intersectional experiences when addressing health disparities and highlight the need for policies and therapies to dismantle these structural health disparities. Researchers are now working with community members to design interventions for young Black women to combat this stress.