Lifetime discrimination burden, racial discrimination, and subclinical cerebrovascular disease among African Americans

Health Psychol. 2019 Jan;38(1):63-74. doi: 10.1037/hea0000638. Epub 2018 Nov 26.


Objective: Explore interactive relations of lifetime discrimination burden and racial discrimination-chronic stressors among African Americans (AAs)-and age with MRI-assessed white matter lesion volume (WMLV), a prognostic indicator of poor clinical brain health outcomes.

Method: AAs (N = 71; 60.6% female, mean age = 50) participating in the Healthy Aging in Neighborhoods of Diversity across the Life Span (HANDLS) SCAN study underwent quantitative magnetic resonance imaging coded for WMLV. Participants self-reported lifetime discrimination burden and racial discrimination approximately 5 years earlier. Multivariable regression models assessed interactions of linear and quadratic effects of discrimination and age with WMLV adjusted for sex and socioeconomic status.

Results: Findings revealed significant interactive relations of age and (a) quadratic, lifetime discrimination burden, B = .05, p = .014, ηpartial2 = .092, and (b) quadratic, racial discrimination, B = .03, p = .001, ηpartial2 = .155, with WMLV. Among older AA, increases in lifetime discrimination burden and racial discrimination were associated with increases in WMLV (ps < .03); in younger AA, decreasing levels of racial discrimination were related to increases in WMLV (p = .006).

Conclusions: Among older AA, as lifetime discrimination burden and racial discrimination increased, so did WMLV. However, in younger AA, decreases in racial discrimination were associated with increased WMLV. Elucidation of complex mechanistic underpinnings, including potentially differential impacts of the acknowledgment versus suppression or underreporting of discriminatory experiences, among AA of different age cohorts, is critical to understanding the present pattern of findings. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2018 APA, all rights reserved).

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Black or African American / psychology*
  • Cerebrovascular Disorders / ethnology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Racism / psychology*