Background & purpose: Due to the relative absence of African-Americans seeking treatment for restless legs syndrome (RLS) in specialty clinics, a lower prevalence of RLS among African-Americans than Caucasians has been suggested. We compared the prevalence of RLS in African-Americans and Caucasians in a biracial community sample as part of Wave IV of the Baltimore Health and Mental Health Study.
Methods: Subjects included 1071 adults [358 African-Americans (35.0%), and 633 Caucasians (61.8%), and 33 others]. Diagnosis of RLS was based on endorsement of RLS symptoms on a seven-item RLS questionnaire during a household interview. Adjusted odds and 95% confidence intervals were calculated based on logistic regression models with diagnosis of RLS as the main outcome variables and African-American race as the main predictor while adjusting for other relevant sociodemographic and/or health-related variables.
Results: The prevalence of RLS in this population was 4.1%. The rates were similar for African-Americans (4.7%) and Caucasians (3.8%). After adjustment for age, gender, medical comorbidities, and socioeconomic status, no difference in the prevalence of RLS was found between African-Americans and Caucasians.
Conclusion: RLS is comparably prevalent among African-American and Caucasian adults in the general population. Barriers affecting access to care settings for African-American RLS patients should be investigated in the future.