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J Am Geriatr Soc. 2010 Oct;58(10):2009-15. doi: 10.1111/j.1532-5415.2010.03033.x.

Racial and ethnic disparities in indicators of physical health status: do they still exist throughout late life?

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  • 1Division of General Internal Medicine and Primary Care and Health Policy Research Institute, University of California at Irvine, Irvine, California, USA.


Physical health problems become more common as people age and are associated with a great deal of disability. Although racial and ethnic disparities have been reported in physical health, little is known about whether these disparities remain in the latest part of older adulthood. Accordingly, the current study sought to examine racial and ethnic differences in the physical health status of three age groups of older adults, using the 2005 and 2007 California Health Interview Survey. The sample for the current study included 40,631 individuals aged 55 and older: 33,488 non-Hispanic whites, 1,858 blacks, 2,872 Asians and Pacific Islanders, and 2,412 Latinos. Respondents were compared with regard to three indicators of physical health: four chronic health conditions, difficulties with activities of daily living, and self-rated health. Analyses were conducted with and without adjustment for sex, marital status, education, English-language proficiency, nativity, and insurance status. Results revealed that, in general, racial and ethnic disparities existed for physical health in late adulthood, with differences less pronounced for Asians and Pacific Islanders and Latinos aged 75 and older after multivariable adjustment. Disparities between blacks and non-Hispanic whites and disparities across all racial and ethnic minorities in self-rated health still existed. These findings suggest that, to reduce racial and ethnic disparities, clinicians need to address specific sociodemographic and lifestyle factors related to racial and ethnic differences in health before these conditions are manifested in late adulthood.

© 2010, Copyright the Authors. Journal compilation © 2010, The American Geriatrics Society.

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