Contribution of Individual and Neighborhood Factors to Racial Disparities in Respiratory Outcomes

Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2021 Apr 15;203(8):987-997. doi: 10.1164/rccm.202002-0253OC.


Rationale: Black adults have worse health outcomes compared with white adults in certain chronic diseases, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).Objectives: To determine to what degree disadvantage by individual and neighborhood socioeconomic status (SES) may contribute to racial disparities in COPD outcomes.Methods: Individual and neighborhood-scale sociodemographic characteristics were determined in 2,649 current or former adult smokers with and without COPD at recruitment into SPIROMICS (Subpopulations and Intermediate Outcome Measures in COPD Study). We assessed whether racial differences in symptom, functional, and imaging outcomes (St. George's Respiratory Questionnaire, COPD Assessment Test score, modified Medical Research Council dyspnea scale, 6-minute-walk test distance, and computed tomography [CT] scan metrics) and severe exacerbation risk were explained by individual or neighborhood SES. Using generalized linear mixed model regression, we compared respiratory outcomes by race, adjusting for confounders and individual-level and neighborhood-level descriptors of SES both separately and sequentially.Measurements and Main Results: After adjusting for COPD risk factors, Black participants had significantly worse respiratory symptoms and quality of life (modified Medical Research Council scale, COPD Assessment Test, and St. George's Respiratory Questionnaire), higher risk of severe exacerbations and higher percentage of emphysema, thicker airways (internal perimeter of 10 mm), and more air trapping on CT metrics compared with white participants. In addition, the association between Black race and respiratory outcomes was attenuated but remained statistically significant after adjusting for individual-level SES, which explained up to 12-35% of racial disparities. Further adjustment showed that neighborhood-level SES explained another 26-54% of the racial disparities in respiratory outcomes. Even after accounting for both individual and neighborhood SES factors, Black individuals continued to have increased severe exacerbation risk and persistently worse CT outcomes (emphysema, air trapping, and airway wall thickness).Conclusions: Disadvantages by individual- and neighborhood-level SES each partly explain disparities in respiratory outcomes between Black individuals and white individuals. Strategies to narrow the gap in SES disadvantages may help to reduce race-related health disparities in COPD; however, further work is needed to identify additional risk factors contributing to persistent disparities.

Keywords: COPD; neighborhood disadvantage; racial disparities; socioeconomic status.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Black or African American / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Health Status Disparities*
  • Healthcare Disparities / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / physiopathology*
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / therapy*
  • Race Factors / statistics & numerical data*
  • Smoking / adverse effects*
  • Social Class
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • White People / statistics & numerical data