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Soc Sci Med. 2013 Jan;77:75-83. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2012.11.007. Epub 2012 Nov 14.

How does race get "under the skin"?: inflammation, weathering, and metabolic problems in late life.

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Department of Sociology, McGill University, Room 712, Leacock Building, 855 Sherbrooke Street West, Montreal, Quebec H3A 2T7, Canada.


Using nationally representative data from the 2005-2006 U.S. National Social Life, Health, and Aging Project, this study queries the mechanisms underlying worse metabolic outcomes--blood-sugar control and cardiovascular health--among black than white men ages 57-85. Results indicate that contrary to much of the academic literature as well as media accounts-implicitly rooted in a "culture of irresponsibility" model--older black men's social isolation, poor health behaviors, or obesity may not play a major role in their worse metabolic problems. Instead, these outcomes seem to derive more consistently from a factor almost unexamined in the literature--chronic inflammation, arguably a biological "weathering" mechanism induced by these men's cumulative and multi-dimensional stress. These findings highlight the necessity of focusing attention not simply on proximal behavioral interventions, but on broader stress-inducing social inequalities, to reduce men's race disparities in health.

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