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Nurs Res. 1998 Jul-Aug;47(4):243-50.

Racial differences in health status and health behaviors of older adults.

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Medical College of Georgia, Augusta, USA.



Little is known about racial differences in health status and health behaviors of older adults, especially among the oldest old.


To investigate racial differences in health status and health behaviors of African American and Caucasian older adults and to identify factors that influence health behaviors of older adults.


A descriptive comparative study using data from the Georgia Centenarian Study was conducted. The subjects were 248 older adults (181 Caucasians and 67 African Americans) ranging in age from 60 to 107 years. Demographic characteristics, health status, and four health behaviors were assessed.


African Americans had significantly lower mental health (p < .001) and poorer self-perceived health (p < .01) than did their Caucasian counterparts; however, when covaried with education and income, racial differences in self-perceived health were eliminated, and differences in mental health decreased but remained significant (p < .05). Using univariate analyses, only two health behaviors, physical activity and eating breakfast regularly, showed significant racial differences. Relatively few older adults participated in leisure-time physical activity. Logistic regression analyses indicated that race was not significantly related to any health behaviors. Age, gender, and physical health status were most frequently related to health behaviors.


The findings indicated no robust racial differences in health status and health behaviors, especially when education and income were controlled. More research is recommended to clarify the factors that explain health behaviors of older adults.

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