Race-Ethnicity, Poverty, Urban Stressors, and Telomere Length in a Detroit Community-based Sample

Arline T. Geronimus, Jay A. Pearson, Erin Linnenbringer, Amy J. Schulz, Angela G. Reyes, Elissa S. Epel, Jue Lin, Elizabeth H. Blackburn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

161 Scopus citations

Abstract

Residents of distressed urban areas suffer early aging-related disease and excess mortality. Using a community-based participatory research approach in a collaboration between social researchers and cellular biologists, we collected a unique data set of 239 black, white, or Mexican adults from a stratified, multistage probability sample of three Detroit neighborhoods. We drew venous blood and measured telomere length (TL), an indicator of stress-mediated biological aging, linking respondents’ TL to their community survey responses. We regressed TL on socioeconomic, psychosocial, neighborhood, and behavioral stressors, hypothesizing and finding an interaction between poverty and racial-ethnic group. Poor whites had shorter TL than nonpoor whites; poor and nonpoor blacks had equivalent TL; and poor Mexicans had longer TL than nonpoor Mexicans. Findings suggest unobserved heterogeneity bias is an important threat to the validity of estimates of TL differences by race-ethnicity. They point to health impacts of social identity as contingent, the products of structurally rooted biopsychosocial processes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)199-224
Number of pages26
JournalJournal of Health and Social Behavior
Volume56
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 4 2015

Keywords

  • Latinos
  • aging
  • blacks
  • health disparities
  • neighborhood
  • poverty
  • stressors
  • telomeres
  • urban
  • whites

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