How does race get "under the skin"?: inflammation, weathering, and metabolic problems in late life

Soc Sci Med. 2013 Jan;77:75-83. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2012.11.007. Epub 2012 Nov 14.


Using nationally representative data from the 2005-2006 U.S. National Social Life, Health, and Aging Project, this study queries the mechanisms underlying worse metabolic outcomes--blood-sugar control and cardiovascular health--among black than white men ages 57-85. Results indicate that contrary to much of the academic literature as well as media accounts-implicitly rooted in a "culture of irresponsibility" model--older black men's social isolation, poor health behaviors, or obesity may not play a major role in their worse metabolic problems. Instead, these outcomes seem to derive more consistently from a factor almost unexamined in the literature--chronic inflammation, arguably a biological "weathering" mechanism induced by these men's cumulative and multi-dimensional stress. These findings highlight the necessity of focusing attention not simply on proximal behavioral interventions, but on broader stress-inducing social inequalities, to reduce men's race disparities in health.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • African Americans / psychology
  • African Americans / statistics & numerical data*
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / ethnology*
  • Chronic Disease
  • European Continental Ancestry Group / psychology
  • European Continental Ancestry Group / statistics & numerical data*
  • Glucose Metabolism Disorders / ethnology*
  • Health Behavior / ethnology
  • Health Status Disparities*
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / ethnology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / ethnology
  • Risk Factors
  • Social Support
  • Stress, Physiological*
  • United States / epidemiology