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Ann Epidemiol. 2019 Aug;36:33-39. doi: 10.1016/j.annepidem.2019.06.003. Epub 2019 Jun 21.

Perceived racism in relation to telomere length among African American women in the Black Women's Health Study.

Author information

1
Department of Biostatistics, Boston University School of Public Health, Boston, MA; Slone Epidemiology Center at Boston University, Boston, MA.
2
Slone Epidemiology Center at Boston University, Boston, MA; Department of Epidemiology, Boston University School of Public Health, Boston, MA.
3
Department of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA; Harvard/MGH Center on Genomics, Vulnerable Populations, and Health Disparities, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA.
4
Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, MA; Program in Genetic Epidemiology and Statistical Genetics, Department of Epidemiology, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, MA.
5
Program in Genetic Epidemiology and Statistical Genetics, Department of Epidemiology, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, MA.
6
Slone Epidemiology Center at Boston University, Boston, MA; Department of Epidemiology, Boston University School of Public Health, Boston, MA. Electronic address: yvettec@bu.edu.

Abstract

PURPOSE:

Telomere length is considered a biomarker of human aging and premature morbidity and mortality which has been associated with chronic stress.

METHODS:

We assessed the relation between perceived racism and telomere length in the Black Women's Health Study, a follow-up study of U.S. black women begun in 1995. Participants were asked about frequency of "everyday racism" (e.g., "people act as if they think you are not intelligent") and "institutional racism" (e.g., "ever treated unfairly due to race by police"). Using quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction assay, relative telomere lengths (RTL) were measured as the copy number ratio of telomere repeat to a single control gene in 997 participants. Associations of racism variables with log-RTL were estimated by multivariable linear regression, with adjustment for age at blood draw and potential confounders.

RESULTS:

Participants were aged 40-70 years (mean = 55.6 years), and mean telomere length was 0.77 (range 0.21-1.38). In stratified analyses, there was an inverse association between everyday racism and log-RTL among women who did not discuss their experiences of racism with others (β = -0.1104; 95% CI = -0.2140 to -0.0067; P = .045).

CONCLUSIONS:

Everyday racism was associated with shorter telomere length among women who reported not discussing those experiences with others.

KEYWORDS:

African American; Black; Black Women's Health Study; Leukocyte telomere length; Racism; Women

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