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J Health Soc Behav. 1996 Mar;37(1):27-43.

Double jeopardy to health hypothesis for African Americans: analysis and critique.

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  • 1Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47907-13655, USA. ferraro@sri.soc.purdue.edu


Considerable research on minority health has examined whether members of a minority group experience more rapid health declines than the White majority when both groups reach later life. Researchers have sought to determine if being both old and a member of a minority creates a double disadvantage to health. The primary purpose of this research is to test the double jeopardy to health hypothesis among Black and White Americans using data from a 15-year panel study of adults: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey I: Epidemiological Follow-up Study (NHEFS). African Americans have poorer health at all three times on a variety of health status measures, but no evidence for double jeopardy was uncovered. There were important racial differences for change in health status but Black Americans of all ages -- including Black older adults -- suffered from growing disability and more negative ratings of health. Black adults are more likely to develop serious illness, and their ratings of health decline more rapidly than is the case for White respondents. While there is little support for the double jeopardy hypothesis as originally stated, there is overwhelming evidence to show that the health of Black Americans of all ages declines at a faster rate. The formulation of the double jeopardy hypothesis is critiqued on several points: ontogenetic fallacy, attribution of discrimination, and selective mortality.

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