Racism may accelerate aging in African-American men

January 7, 2014
Racism may accelerate aging in African-American men
Telomeres are repetitive sequences of DNA capping the ends of chromosomes and protecting them from deterioration or from fusion with neighboring chromosomes. Telomeres shorten progressively over time -- at an average rate of approximately 50-100 base pairs annually. Telomere length is variable, shortening more rapidly under conditions of high psychosocial and physiological stress. Shorter telomere length is associated with increased risk of premature death and chronic diseases such as diabetes, dementia, stroke and heart disease. Among African American men with stronger anti-Black attitudes, investigators found that average telomere length was approximately 140 base pairs shorter in those reporting high vs. low levels of racial discrimination; this difference may equate to 1.4 to 2.8 years chronologically. Credit: Wikipedia/Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

A new study reveals that racism may impact aging at the cellular level. Researchers found signs of accelerated aging in African American men, ages reporting high levels of racial discrimination and who had internalized anti-Black attitudes. Findings from the study, which is the first to link racism-related factors and biological aging, are published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Racial disparities in health are well-documented, with African Americans having shorter life expectancy, and a greater likelihood of suffering from aging-related illnesses at younger ages compared to Whites. Accelerated aging at the biological level may be one mechanism linking racism and disease risk.

"We examined a biomarker of systemic aging, known as leukocyte ," explained Dr. David H. Chae, assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of Maryland School of Public Health and the study's lead investigator. Shorter telomere length is associated with increased risk of premature death and chronic disease such as diabetes, dementia, stroke and heart disease. "We found that the African American men who experienced greater racial discrimination and who displayed a stronger bias against their own had the shortest telomeres of those studied."

Telomeres are repetitive sequences of DNA capping the ends of chromosomes, which shorten progressively over time – at a rate of approximately 50-100 base pairs annually. Telomere length is variable, shortening more rapidly under conditions of high psychosocial and physiological stress. "Telomere length may be a better indicator of biological age, which can give us insight into variations in the cumulative 'wear and tear' of the organism net of chronological age," said Chae. Among African American men with stronger anti-Black attitudes, investigators found that average telomere length was 140 base pairs shorter in those reporting high vs. low levels of racial discrimination; this difference may equate to 1.4 to 2.8 years chronologically.

Participants in the study were 92 African American men between 30-50 years of age. Investigators asked them about their experiences of discrimination in different domains, including work and housing, as well as in getting service at stores or restaurants, from the police, and in other public settings. They also measured using the Black-White Implicit Association Test. This test gauges unconscious attitudes and beliefs about race groups that people may be unaware of or unwilling to report.

Even after adjusting for participants' chronological age, socioeconomic factors, and health-related characteristics, investigators found that the combination of high racial discrimination and anti-Black bias was associated with the shortest telomeres. On the other hand, the data revealed that racial discrimination had little relationship with telomere length among those holding pro-Black attitudes. "African American men who have more positive views of their racial group may be buffered from the negative impact of racial discrimination," explained Chae. "In contrast, those who have internalized an anti-Black bias may be less able to cope with racist experiences, which may result in greater stress and shorter telomeres."

The findings from this study are timely in light of regular media reports of racism facing African American men. "Stop-and-frisk policies, and other forms of criminal profiling such as 'driving or shopping while Black' are inherently stressful and have a real impact on the health of African Americans," said Chae. Researchers found that by police was most commonly reported by participants in the study, followed by discrimination in employment. In addition, African American men are more routinely treated with less courtesy or respect, and experience other daily hassles related to racism.

Chae indicated the need for additional research to replicate findings, including larger studies that follow participants over time. "Despite the limitations of our study, we contribute to a growing body of research showing that social toxins disproportionately impacting African American men are harmful to health," Chae explained. "Our findings suggest that racism literally makes people old."

Explore further: Therapeutic challenges for African-Americans with hypertension

More information: "Discrimination, Racial Bias, and Telomere Length in African-American Men" was written by David H. Chae (University of Maryland, College Park); Amani M. Nuru-Jeter ( University of California, Berkeley); Nancy E. Adler, Jue Lin, Elizabeth H. Blackburn, and Elissa S. Epel ( University of California, San Francisco); and Gene H. Brody (Emory University) and published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

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5 comments

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210
1 / 5 (1) Jan 07, 2014
Can you imagine,who living today, could imagine the damage imposed on African-Americans during over 250 years of chattel slavery. To then be followed by over 100 years of Jim Crow law-America's version of Apartheid - and then to gain a civil rights movement in the mid 1950s but be the only ethnic group to have to endure a collective and mass employment loss, following recovery - out of all the ethnic groups in the USA - following 7 of the last 8 national and regional recessions in America. Also from this site:
"Racial discrimination lessens benefits of higher socio-economic status (w/ Video) Jun 14, 2012"
"Link between racial discrimination and stress described in new study Sep 14, 2011"
WE use science to lend clarity to so very much. But science is just never enough to get humans to gain a conscience sufficient to change the way we TREAT one another. We get SOME public discussion every time there is a mass shooting, but we earthlings turn cowards on race hate!

word-
VENDItardE
not rated yet Jan 07, 2014
210....you are truly stupid.
Chris Williams
not rated yet Jan 08, 2014
In other words it's whitey's fault that blacks age faster. Liberals always have to find a way to blame us for something.
210
not rated yet Jan 08, 2014
210....you are truly stupid.

WOW! THANKS VENDI...coming from you....in response to an article like this one...which, you being in LOVE with russia, and being from russia and stuff - what would your complaint be - you weren't here! You moved here (and living in Jersey with a blow up doll you call anastasia). I mean the article did not have your name on or in it! It talked about the effects of depravations and hardships of a people. I just mentioned how hard it would be to imagine their pain and toil and stuff and then...POOF! Here's Vendi, and he has his undies in a wad! What are you all upset about? - Oh, I KNOW, you wanted to write the stuff I wrote but I BEAT cha! Oh gee Vendi, hey, sorry man, but I got this one, you can be vigilante-hater on the next one, ok? OK! Poor Vendi - his blow up doll shrank to the size of a hummingbird in the washer - but it should be a tighter fit now...yeah! (I told him use cold water. It says cold-wash-only on the box, seesh, last gift from me bro
210
not rated yet Jan 08, 2014
In other words it's whitey's fault that blacks age faster. Liberals always have to find a way to blame us for something.

Chris? Chris WIlliams? DARN IT! Now you have gone and DONE IT! You have let the freakin cat out of the freakin BAG DUDE! All those Black chicks...I showed them your picture man! I told them you were Puerto Rican! NOW, they KNOW, THEY KNOW DUDE! You are a "....WHITEY..."
You asked me to pimp-you up, pimp-out your ride, and get you laid, and then, THEN, you 'come-out' YOU, mr.man, you have come out of the "WHITEY" closet, DARN IT!
Go back to the porn sites, sit there WITH that goofy look on your face and that Ginormous jar of Vaseline and bottle of baby oil. ain't NOTHING I can do for you! You are OUT OF THE CLOSET with your dirty " WHITEY " laundry. You could have just chilled an stopped having sex all by yourself. I have been feeding those ladies Spanish Fly and Viagara Burgers ALL week. I was setting you UP, JACK! Two at a time, all weekend long, hell no now

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