Session: The Influence of Interdependence, Isolation and Discrimination on Health and Mortality Among Older Adults of Color (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

All live presentations are in Eastern time zone.

129 The Influence of Interdependence, Isolation and Discrimination on Health and Mortality Among Older Adults of Color

Thursday, January 21, 2021: 1:15 PM-2:15 PM
Cluster: Aging Services and Gerontology
Symposium Organizer:
Ann Nguyen, PhD, Case Western Reserve University
This symposium examines social determinants of health and well-being in racial and ethnic populations of color across the life course. With the rapidly expanding older adult population in the U.S. also increasing in racial/ethnic diversity, a better understanding of the social determinants of health within diverse cultural contexts of aging is of critical importance. This collection of papers specifically focuses on elders of color and the aging process.

The first paper examines the independent and interdependent associations between symptom distress and quality of life (QOL) among Black American dyads following a cancer diagnosis. Analyses were based on data from three RCTs that enrolled Black Americans age 50 and older with breast, lung, colorectal or prostate cancers (i.e., patients) and their caregivers (N=124 dyads). Findings indicate that more symptom distress among Black Americans with cancer and their caregivers contributed to their own poorer QOL, particularly physical and emotional dimensions. Emotional QOL was also influenced by the other dyad member's symptom distress.

The second paper reports the findings for a study on the effects of social isolation and loneliness on the physical and mental health of older Black Americans using data from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS). The results indicate that loneliness has a strong positive association with physical and mental health among Black older adults; in comparison, social isolation did not have any effect on health regardless of loneliness.

The third paper investigates 1) the associations between discrimination and objective and subjective social isolation and 2) how these associations vary by age in a nationally representative sample of African American adults using the National Survey of American Life. Results indicate that discrimination was positively associated with being subjectively isolated from friends only and family only. Discrimination did not predict objective isolation. A significant interaction revealed that the association between discrimination and subjective isolation from friends varied by age, with older adults being most vulnerable to the effects of discrimination.

The fourth paper examines the joint consequences of multiple dimensions of perceived discrimination on mortality risk in a racially/ethnically diverse sample of older adults drawn from the HRS. Results show that the number of attributed reasons for discrimination predicted mortality risk. The findings suggest that major lifetime discrimination may have a more harmful influence on likelihood of death among older Whites than Latinos.

Taken together, these papers will provide an important lens into individual and interpersonal factors that influence the health and wellbeing of older adults of color and set the stage for timely discussions about positive social change with this population. Findings will be discussed with attention to important cultural and contextual factors and highlight implications for ongoing social work research and practice.

* noted as presenting author
Symptom Distress and Quality of Life Among Middle-Age and Older Black Americans with Cancer and Their Caregivers
Katrina Ellis, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor; Seyoung Oh, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor; Hillary Hecht, MSW, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor; Laurel Northouse, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
Discrimination and Social Isolation Among African Americans across the Life Course
Ann Nguyen, PhD, Case Western Reserve University; Harry Taylor, Duke University
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