Racial differences in mortality in older adults: factors beyond socioeconomic status

Ann Behav Med. 2012 Feb;43(1):29-38. doi: 10.1007/s12160-011-9335-4.


Background: Little is known about the simultaneous effect of socioeconomic status (SES), psychosocial, and health-related factors on race differences in mortality in older adults.

Purpose: This study examined the association between race and mortality and the role of SES, health insurance, psychosocial factors, behavioral factors, and health-related factors in explaining these differences.

Methods: Data consisted of 2,938 adults participating in the Health, Aging and Body Composition study. Mortality was assessed over 8 years.

Results: SES differences accounted for 60% of the racial differences in all-cause mortality; behavioral factors and self-rated health further reduced the disparity. The racial differences in coronary heart disease mortality were completely explained by SES. Health insurance and behavioral factors accounted for some, but not all, of the race differences in cancer mortality.

Conclusions: Race-related risk factors for mortality may differ by the underlying cause of mortality.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Black or African American*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Insurance, Health*
  • Life Style
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Mortality / ethnology*
  • Psychology*
  • Social Class*
  • White People*