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STUDY: Racism, Criminal Profiling Speeds Up Aging Process In Black Men

Did you know that New York’s stop-and-frisk program could be robbing black men of the time they have on this planet? That’s the claim of a new study billed as the first of its kind, which argues racism appears to accelerate the aging process among black men.

University of Maryland researchers, in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, report that they found “signs of accelerated aging in African American men who reported high levels of racial discrimination and who had internalized anti-Black attitudes.”

“The findings from this study are timely in light of regular media reports of racism facing African American men,” states the university on its website. “Stop-and-frisk policies, and other forms of criminal profiling such as ‘driving or shopping while black’ are inherently stressful and have a real impact on the health of African Americans.”

“Our findings suggest that racism literally makes people old,” stated Dr. David Chae, assistant professor of epidemiology at UMD’s School of Public Health and the study’s lead investigator.

According to the university:

Racial disparities in health are well-documented, with African Americans having shorter life expectancy, and a greater likelihood of suffering from aging-related illnesses at younger ages compared to whites. Accelerated aging at the biological level may be one mechanism linking racism and disease risk. …

Participants in the study were 92 African American men between 30-50 years of age. Investigators asked them about their experiences of discrimination in different domains, including work and housing, as well as in getting service at stores or restaurants, from the police, and in other public settings. They also measured racial bias using the Black-White Implicit Association Test. This test gauges unconscious attitudes and beliefs about race groups that people may be unaware of or unwilling to report.

Even after adjusting for participants’ chronological age, socioeconomic factors, and health-related characteristics, investigators found that the combination of high racial discrimination and anti-black bias was associated with shorter telomeres. On the other hand, the data revealed that racial discrimination had little relationship with telomere length among those holding pro-black attitudes. “African American men who have more positive views of their racial group may be buffered from the negative impact of racial discrimination,” explained Chae. “In contrast, those who have internalized an anti-black bias may be less able to cope with racist experiences, which may result in greater stress and shorter telomeres.”

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IMAGE: Graphixtec/Flickr

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