Despite evidence suggesting race and ethnicity are important factors in responses to environmental exposures, drug therapies, and disease risk, few studies focus on the health needs of racially- and ethnically-diverse aging adults.
The objective of this study was to determine the burden of 10 health conditions across race and ethnicity for a nationally-representative sample of aging Americans.
Data from the 1998 to 2014 waves of the Health and Retirement Study, an ongoing longitudinal-panel study, were analyzed.
Those aged over 50 years who identified as Black, Hispanic, or White were included. There were 5510 Blacks, 3423 Hispanics, and 21,168 Whites in the study.
At each wave, participants reported if they had cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, congestive heart failure, diabetes, back pain, hypertension, a fractured hip, myocardial infarction, rheumatism or arthritis, and a stroke. Disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) were calculated for each health condition by race and ethnicity. Ranked DALYs determined how race and ethnicity was differentially impacted by the burden of each health condition. Sample weights were utilized to make DALY estimates nationally-representative.
Weighted DALY estimates (in thousands) ranged from 1405 to 55,631 for Blacks, 931 to 28,442 for Hispanics, and 15,313 to 295,623 for Whites. Although the health conditions affected each race and ethnicity differently, hypertension had the largest number of DALYs, and hip fractures had the fewest across race and ethnicity. In total, there were an estimated 198,621, 101,462, and 1,187,725 DALYs for older Black, Hispanic, and White aging adults.
Our findings indicate that race and ethnicity may be influential on health and disease for aging adults in the United States. Monitoring DALYs may help guide the flow of health-related expenditures, improve the impact of health interventions, advance inclusive health care for diverse aging adult populations, and prepare healthcare providers for serving the health needs of aging adults.