Racial Disparities in Health: The Roles of Stress, Social Relations and the Cardiovascular System

a MiCDA Research Project Description

Investigators: Kira S. Birditt, Toni Antonucci, Richard D. Gonzalez, Kayvan Najarian, James S. Jackson

Funding: National Institute on Aging, 2016-2021 (1 R01 AG 054371 01)

Hypertension is the number one cause of racial disparities in mortality in the U.S. Thus, identifying the mechanisms by which race is linked with cardiovascular health is a significant research area. African Americans are exposed to more stress across the lifespan and lifetime adversity is associated with cardiovascular disease (CVD) and hypertension. However, mechanisms accounting for the links between long-term stress exposure, hypertension, and CVD remain unclear. According to existing theories, racial health disparities are due to variations in long-term exposure to stress and stress reactivity (biological, psychological, behavioral) - disparities that are moderated by social relations and age.

This study tests associations between long-term stress exposure and short-term stress reactivity by race and age; it examines age differences in long-term stress exposure and short-term reactivity by race; and it determines how long-term social relationships moderate differences in stress exposure and reactivity. A more nuanced understanding of the psychological and biological implications of stress among diverse populations will lead to the development and testing of interventions for reducing stress, later health problems, and health disparities.

Research Signature Theme:

Health and well-being in later life: Disparities