A heavy burden: the cardiovascular health consequences of having a family member incarcerated

Am J Public Health. 2014 Mar;104(3):421-7. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2013.301504. Epub 2014 Jan 16.


Objectives: We examined the association of family member incarceration with cardiovascular risk factors and disease by gender.

Methods: We used a sample of 5470 adults aged 18 years and older in the National Survey of American Life, a 2001-2003 nationally representative cross-sectional survey of Blacks and Whites living in the United States, to examine 5 self-reported health conditions (diabetes, hypertension, heart attack or stroke, obesity, and fair or poor health).

Results: Family member incarceration was associated with increased likelihood of poor health across all 5 conditions for women but not for men. In adjusted models, women with family members who were currently incarcerated had 1.44 (95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.03, 2.00), 2.53 (95% CI = 1.80, 3.55), and 1.93 (95% CI = 1.45, 2.58) times the odds of being obese, having had a heart attack or stroke, and being in fair or poor health, respectively.

Conclusions: Family member incarceration has profound implications for women's cardiovascular health and should be considered a unique risk factor that contributes to racial disparities in health.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • African Continental Ancestry Group / psychology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / etiology*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / psychology
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Cost of Illness*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • European Continental Ancestry Group / psychology
  • Family / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Likelihood Functions
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prisoners*
  • Self Report
  • Sex Distribution
  • Sex Factors
  • Young Adult