Neighborhood Characteristics and Inflammation among Older Black Americans: The Moderating Effects of Hopelessness and Pessimism

J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2021 Apr 30;glab121. doi: 10.1093/gerona/glab121. Online ahead of print.

Abstract

Background: Research documents the adverse health effects of systemic inflammation. Overall, older Black Americans tend to have higher inflammation than older non-Hispanic white adults. Given that inflammation is related to a range of chronic health problems that disproportionately affect Blacks compared to whites, this racial disparity in inflammation may contribute to racial disparities in particular chronic health problems. Thus, a better understanding of its determinants in the older Black population is of critical importance. This analysis examined the association between neighborhood characteristics and inflammation in a national sample of older non-Hispanic Black Americans. An additional aim of this study was to determine whether hopelessness and pessimism moderates the association between neighborhood characteristics and inflammation.

Methods: A sample of older non-Hispanic Black Americans aged 60+ were drawn from the Health and Retirement Study (N=1,004). Neighborhood characteristics included neighborhood physical disadvantage and neighborhood social cohesion. Inflammation was assessed by C-reactive protein (CRP).

Results: The analyses indicated that neighborhood physical disadvantage and social cohesion were not associated with CRP. Hopelessness and pessimism moderated the association between neighborhood physical disadvantage and CRP.

Conclusions: Knowledge regarding the role of hopelessness and pessimism as moderator in the neighborhood-inflammation association can inform cognitive-behavioral interventions targeted at changes in cognition patterns.

Keywords: C-reactive protein; cognitive disposition; neighborhood physical disadvantage; neighborhood social cohesion.