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Am J Public Health. 1997 May; 87(5): 805–810.
PMCID: PMC1381054

Socioeconomic status and racial and ethnic differences in functional status associated with chronic diseases.


OBJECTIVES: This study examined the relationships between wealth and income and selected racial and ethnic differences in health. METHODS: Cross-sectional data on a national sample of 9744 men and women aged 51 through 61 from the 1992 Health and Retirement Survey were analyzed to examine the association between socioeconomic status and racial and ethnic differences in functional status among those with hypertension, diabetes, a heart condition, and arthritis. RESULTS: Compared with Whites, African Americans report higher rates of hypertension, diabetes, and arthritis, while Hispanics report higher rates of hypertension and diabetes and a lower rate of heart conditions. Accounting for differences in education, income, and wealth had little effect on these prevalence differences. In general, among those with chronic diseases, African Americans and Hispanics reported worse function than Whites. This disadvantage was eliminated in every case by controlling for socioeconomic status. CONCLUSIONS: While socioeconomic status, including wealth, accounts for much of the difference in functional status associated with these chronic diseases. It plays a relatively small role in explaining differences in the prevalence of chronic disease, possibly reflecting different causal pathways.

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