Objectives: To assess associations of cultural and personal identity variables with socioeconomic status (SES) and health lifestyle in African Americans.
Methods: A questionnaire administered to 333 African Americans, ages 40-70 years, at enrollment in a nutrition education study assessed: African-American cultural identity (15 items scored 1 [low] to 4 [high]); reference group (two questions about perceived success in the Black or White way of life-scored as bi-cultural if "yes" to both); personal identity (4 items on: self-concept as attractive, self-confident, satisfied and friendly-scored 1 [no/not sure] or 2 [yes]); and selected demographic and lifestyle variables.
Results: Cultural identity factors reflecting participation in and belonging to African-American culture and bi-cultural reference group were related to higher SES, lower fat diets, not smoking, current drinking, and higher leisure time physical activity (cultural identity only), particularly in women (P<.001 to P = .06). Associations of cultural identity with physical activity and of bi-cultural reference group with low-fat eating and not smoking (females) remained significant at P<.05 after adjustment for SES.
Conclusions: A greater emphasis is needed on aspects of cultural identity that are positively related to health lifestyles as distinct from aspects that might act as barriers.