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J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci. 2012 Jul;67(4):503-13. doi: 10.1093/geronb/gbs048. Epub 2012 May 15.

The social patterns of a biological risk factor for disease: race, gender, socioeconomic position, and C-reactive protein.

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Department of Public Affairs, University of Wisconsin, Madison, 53706, USA.



Understand the links between race and C-reactive protein (CRP), with special attention to gender differences and the role of class and behavioral risk factors as mediators.


This study utilizes the National Social Life, Health, and Aging Project data, a nationally representative study of older Americans aged 57-85 to explore two research questions. First, what is the relative strength of socioeconomic versus behavioral risk factors in explaining race differences in CRP levels? Second, what role does gender play in understanding race differences? Does the relative role of socioeconomic and behavioral risk factors in explaining race differences vary when examining men and women separately?


When examining men and women separately, socioeconomic and behavioral risk factor mediators vary in their importance. Indeed, racial differences in CRP among men aged 57-74 are little changed after adjusting for both socioeconomic and behavioral risk factors with levels 35% higher for black men as compared to white men. For women aged 57-74, however, behavioral risk factors explain 30% of the relationship between race and CRP.


The limited explanatory power of socioeconomic position and, particularly, behavioral risk factors, in elucidating the relationship between race and CRP among men, signals the need for research to examine additional mediators, including more direct measures of stress and discrimination.

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