Telomere length and procedural justice predict stress reactivity responses to unfair outcomes in African Americans

Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2017 Dec;86:104-109. doi: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2017.09.008. Epub 2017 Sep 7.


This experiment demonstrates that chromosomal telomere length (TL) moderates response to injustice among African Americans. Based on worldview verification theory - an emerging psychosocial framework for understanding stress - we predicted that acute stress responses would be most pronounced when individual-level expectancies for justice were discordant with justice experiences. Healthy African Americans (N=118; 30% male; M age=31.63years) provided dried blood spot samples that were assayed for TL, and completed a social-evaluative stressor task during which high versus low levels of distributive (outcome) and procedural (decision process) justice were simultaneously manipulated. African Americans with longer telomeres appeared more resilient (in emotional and neuroendocrine response-higher DHEAs:cortisol) to receiving an unfair outcome when a fair decision process was used, whereas African Americans with shorter telomeres appeared more resilient when an unfair decision process was used. TL may indicate personal histories of adversity and associated stress-related expectancies that influence responses to injustice.

Keywords: Health disparities; Justice; Stress reactivity; Telomeres; Worldview verification theory.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • African Americans / psychology
  • Biomarkers
  • Female
  • Genetic Testing / methods*
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / analysis
  • Hydrocortisone / blood
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Psychology / methods
  • Saliva
  • Social Justice / psychology
  • Stress, Physiological / physiology*
  • Stress, Psychological / pathology
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology*
  • Telomere / metabolism
  • Telomere Homeostasis / physiology*
  • Telomere Shortening / physiology


  • Biomarkers
  • Hydrocortisone