The Paradoxical Impact of Companionship on the Mental Health of Older African American Men

J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci. 2018 Jan 11;73(2):230-239. doi: 10.1093/geronb/gbx089.


Objectives: African Americans comprise 9% of the 46 million U.S. adults over age 65. Two thirds of older African American men (AAM) reside with companions. This study investigated the assumption that frequent contact with companions confers mainly health-related benefits for AAM.

Methods: Utilizing secondary data from the National Alzheimer's Coordinating Center, the relationship between older AAM's mental health and related conditions (depression, anxiety, and sleep disturbances), companion living arrangements, and frequency of contact with the participants for 3,423 older AAM and their 1,161 companions, was examined.

Results: The mean age of participants and companions was 74 years and 90% of AAM lived in a private residence. Logistic regression models indicated that an increased risk for anxiety was found when companions lived in (OR = 1.66), called daily (OR = 1.089), or visited daily (OR = 1.079). Finally, AAM had an increased likelihood of nonmedical sleep disturbances when companions lived in (OR = 1.67), called daily (1.105), or visited daily (1.078).

Discussion: The frequency of contact with companions may be consequential for select mental health outcomes and associated physiological conditions for older AAM; the timing of contact requires further investigation.

Keywords: African American; Caregiving; Disease; Men; Mental Health; Social Determinants of Health.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • African Americans / psychology*
  • African Americans / statistics & numerical data
  • Aged / psychology
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Anxiety / epidemiology
  • Anxiety / etiology
  • Depression / epidemiology
  • Depression / etiology
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Mental Health / ethnology
  • Mental Health / statistics & numerical data*
  • Middle Aged
  • Risk Factors
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / epidemiology
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / etiology
  • Spouses / psychology*
  • United States / epidemiology