Racism and Older Black Americans’ Health: A Systematic Review

The authors reviewed research that examines racism as an independent variable and one or more health outcomes as dependent variables in Black American adults aged 50 years and older in the USA. Of the 43 studies we reviewed, most measured perceived interpersonal racism, perceived institutional racism, or residential segregation. The only two measures of structural racism were birth and residence in a “Jim Crow state.” Fourteen studies found associations between racism and mental health outcomes, five with cardiovascular outcomes, seven with cognition, two with physical function, two with telomere length, and five with general health/other health outcomes. Ten studies found no significant associations in older Black adults. All but six of the studies were cross-sectional. Research to understand the extent of structural and multilevel racism as a social determinant of health and the impact on older adults specifically is needed. Improved measurement tools could help address this gap in science.

WHY THIS ARTICLE IS WORTH READING: Since the pandemic started, the study of the impact of racism and the lack of health equity fills the literature. I’m not certain that we’ve established the exact ways to measure either, but it seems clear that both are important dynamics contributing to poor health outcomes for African Americans.

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