Saturday, 15 January 2005 - 2:00 PM
This presentation is part of: Social Factors in Aging
Racial Disparities in Health: The Role of Productive EngagementJim Hinterlong, PhD, Florida State University.
Overview: The primary goal of this paper is to elucidate the role of productive engagement as a factor related to race disparities in health among older adults. Racial differences in morbidity and mortality are clearly visible across the life-course and remain significant well into later life. Understanding the forces that produce or mitigate racial disparities in health during later life is critical to the development of interventions aimed at eliminating these differences. This is especially true with respect to the welfare of older non-white individuals, who disproportionately experience the sequelae of illnesses and risks of disability, and yet are generally found to exhibit lower utilization rates of various services. Racial disparities in health are attributed to variations in socioeconomic status, social context, community-level factors, social activity, and health behavior. In addition to these main effects, the complex interactions among these factors are also important determinants of health outcomes. Additional research has shown the importance of various types and levels of productive engagement to the health of individuals. Life course factors result in different patterns of productive engagement among older adults by race, which in turn may be related to differential health outcomes. Thus, while there is ample research on the persistence of race as a significant predictor of health outcomes in later life, few studies have explored the impact of patterns of productive engagement on physical health in later life, or its contributions to observed racial differences in health. Aims: Drawing upon Role Theory and a Life Course perspective, this study will test the effects of productive engagement on functional health status and self-reported health of older Black and White adults over time. It will examine how types of productive engagement, total time spent in engagement, and distribution of time across various productive roles differ between racial groups and influence these health disparities. Design and Methods: This study employs a secondary analysis of nationally-representative data from the first three waves of the Americans' Changing Lives Study. A sub-sample of Black and White individuals aged 60 and over at first interview (N=1,644) will be studied. Generalized Estimating Equations will be used to estimate the predictive value of engagement variables while controlling for sociodemographic differences, cognitive status, social integration, and prior levels of functional and self-rated health. Anticipated Significance: Understanding the relationship of productive engagement to functional status and self-rated health among Black and White older adults will contribute to the growing research on pathways related to health disparities. If supported, the proposed hypotheses will provide empirical evidence that can be used to promote successful aging and address racial disparities in perceived and functional health by focusing resources and attention on the patterns of productive activities performed by older individuals. Such findings may also hold implications for research on the importance of productive activity to individuals in mid-life when patterns of engagement are solidified and establish trajectories that persist into old age.
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