Publications

Do US Black Women Experience Stress-Related Accelerated Biological Aging?: A Novel Theory and First Population-Based Test of Black-White Differences in Telomere Length

We hypothesize that black women experience accelerated biological aging in response to repeated or prolonged adaptation to subjective and objective stressors. Drawing on stress physiology and ethnographic, social science, and public health literature, we lay out the rationale for this hypothesis. We also perform a first population-based test of its plausibility, focusing on telomere length, a biomeasure of aging that may be shortened by stressors. Analyzing data from the Study of Women's Health Across the Nation (SWAN), we estimate that at ages 49-55, black women are 7.5 years biologically “older” than white women. Indicators of perceived stress and poverty account for 27% of this difference. Data limitations preclude assessing objective stressors and also result in imprecise estimates, limiting our ability to draw firm inferences. Further investigation of black-white differences in telomere length using large-population-based samples of broad age range and with detailed measures of environmental stressors is merited.