Who Ages Faster, Blacks or Whites?

Researchers find a 3-year gap in 'biological age'

By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff

Posted Jul 22, 2014 6:29 PM CDT

(Newser) – A troubling new study says that black Americans age faster and die younger than their white counterparts, possibly because of the "everyday stressors" of being black, Medical Daily reports. Researchers at USC calculated this "biological age gap" by analyzing the physical exams and lifestyle surveys of 7,644 Americans aged 30 and older, 11% of whom were black and the rest white. The study considered 10 age-related biomarkers (including total cholesterol, C-reactive protein, and systolic blood pressure) as well as education level, smoking history, and body-mass index, Pacific Standard reports. In the end, researchers calculated an average biological age of 53.16 years for blacks and 49.84 years for whites.

The age gap grew closer—to 52.72 for blacks and 49.89 for whites—when socioeconomic position and health behaviors were considered, but that's still a 3-year difference. So why the gap? Researchers pointed to higher obesity rates among blacks, and a recent study concluded that blacks who internalize the idea of racial inferiority and "anti-black bias" have shorter leukocyte telomeres (another "biological age" marker). The latest study didn't exactly measure racism, but noted that "everyday stressors associated with being black may negatively impact physiological functioning." What's more, "the most disadvantaged blacks may be accumulating poorer and poorer health as they age" before dying at an earlier age than whites in similar situations. (Read about the disturbing "racial disparity" black women face on cancer.)

A black woman prays in church. Her biological age is on average three years higher than that of similarly situated whites, according to a new study.
A black woman prays in church. Her biological age is on average three years higher than that of similarly situated whites, according to a new study.   (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)
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