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

Abstract

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.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Notes

  1. 1.

    Excessive prevalence of stress-related diseases of aging among nonelderly black women calls for better understanding and reversal, per se. In addition, life history theory suggests that local population health and life expectancy play a role in the development of life history traits such as reproductive strategies and risk-taking behavior (Chisholm 1993, 1999; Wilson and Daly 1997). Chisholm (1993, 1999) theorizes that the chronic risk and uncertainty suffered by adults of reproductive and working age who face chronic, multiple stressors could compromise their ability to invest in or buffer their children from risk through the development of secure attachments, with potentially lifelong implications. Stressful life experiences in childhood can also result in lifelong inefficiency in one’s physiological adaptation to stressors or in a conditioned predisposition to overreact to challenges to homeostasis, with adverse health implications (McEwen 1998).

  2. 2.

    In the most recent decades, gendered aspects of US public sentiment on race may have severely limited black men’s role in providing social and economic security for their families, while raising expectations of black women, especially in high poverty populations. For example, young, less-educated black men have experienced a long secular decline in employment rates, continuing even through the labor market expansion of the 1990s (Holzer et al. 2005). At the same time, incarceration rates of young, less-educated black men soared (Western 2006), dramatically disrupting their potential to contribute to family support, while “welfare to work” requirements heightened the demands on black women (Geronimus and Thompson 2004; Jarrett and Burton 1999).

  3. 3.

    For example, 30-year-old Francine was the primary caregiver of both her 6-year-old severely asthmatic son and her mother, who, during the course of the ethnography, suffered a stroke, a heart attack, and underwent tumor surgery. Francine herself developed stomach cancer. Yet, Burton and Whitfield note, “like many of the mothers in the ethnography, Francine endured tremendous physical pain, going to the doctor only when the pain was unbearable and when she ‘didn’t have other folks to take care of’” (2003:17). Another example was Barbara, who at age 37 suffered from multiple chronic health problems, including diabetes, back injury, kidney problems, migraines, hernias, depression, and anxiety. She was not unusual among the study participants.

  4. 4.

    Unhealthy behaviors can also be enabled or facilitated by environmental triggers, such as ethnically targeted cigarette advertising or the presence of many liquor stores and fast-food restaurants in central-city neighborhoods, whose residents also often lack spatial accessibility to healthy diets (LaViest and Wallace 2002; Stoddard et al. 1998; Zenk et al. 2005, 2006).

  5. 5.

    Telomere length in women around this age range is about 7,000 base pairs; thus, crudely, there is a loss of about 6–7% of telomere length per year in midlife.

  6. 6.

    As a robustness test, we also estimated models using the mean of the triplicate qPCR amplifications and obtained similar results.

  7. 7.

    In fact, depending on the length of interval between DNA sample collections, this short-term longitudinal approach would not always provide a reliable test of our hypothesis, which concerns the accumulated impact of stressors over a span of 30 or more years.

References

  1. Adaikalakoteswari, A., Balasubramanyam, M., & Mohan, V. (2005). Telomere shortening occurs in Asian Indian Type 2 diabetic patients. Diabetic Medicine, 22(9), 1151–1156.

    Google Scholar 

  2. Akbartabartoori, M., Lean, M. E., & Hankey, C. R. (2005). Relationships between cigarette smoking, body size and body shape. International Journal of Obesity (Lond), 29(2), 236–243.

    Google Scholar 

  3. Allsopp, R. C., Vaziri, H., Patterson, C., Goldstein, S., Younglai, E. V., Futcher, A. B., et al. (1992). Telomere length predicts replicative capacity of human fibroblasts. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 89(21), 10114–10118.

    Google Scholar 

  4. Almeida, D. M., Neupert, S. D., Banks, S. R., & Serido, J. (2005). Do daily stress processes account for socioeconomic health disparities? Journal of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 60(Spec No 2), 34–39.

    Google Scholar 

  5. Aviv, A. (2002). Chronology versus biology: Telomeres, essential hypertension, and vascular aging. Hypertension, 40(3), 229–232.

    Google Scholar 

  6. Bakaysa, S. L., Mucci, L. A., Slagboom, P. E., Boomsma, D. I., McClearn, G. E., Johansson, B., et al. (2007). Telomere length predicts survival independent of genetic influences. Aging Cell, 6(6), 769–774.

    Google Scholar 

  7. Barnes, L. L., Mendes De Leon, C. F., Wilson, R. S., Bienias, J. L., Bennett, D. A., & Evans, D. A. (2004). Racial differences in perceived discrimination in a community population of older blacks and whites. Journal of Aging and Health, 16(3), 315–337.

    Google Scholar 

  8. Barrett-Connor, E., & Bush, T. L. (1991). Estrogen and coronary heart disease in women. Journal of the American Medical Association, 265(14), 1861–1867.

    Google Scholar 

  9. Barsky, R., Bound, J., Charles, K. K., & Lupton, J. P. (2002). Accounting for the black-white wealth gap: A nonparametric approach. Journal of the American Statistical Association, 97(459), 663–673.

    Google Scholar 

  10. Bauer, M. E., Jeckel, C. M., & Luz, C. (2009). The role of stress factors during aging of the immune system. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1153, 139–152.

    Google Scholar 

  11. Bayne, S., Jones, M. E., Li, H., & Liu, J. P. (2007). Potential roles for estrogen regulation of telomerase activity in aging. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1114, 48–55.

    Google Scholar 

  12. Benetos, A., Okuda, K., Lajemi, M., Kimura, M., Thomas, F., Skurnick, J., et al. (2001). Telomere length as an indicator of biological aging: The gender effect and relation with pulse pressure and pulse wave velocity. Hypertension, 37(2 Part 2), 381–385.

    Google Scholar 

  13. Bennett, G. G., Wolin, K. Y., Robinson, E. L., Fowler, S., & Edwards, C. L. (2005). Perceived racial/ethnic harassment and tobacco use among African American young adults. American Journal of Public Health, 95(2), 238–240.

    Google Scholar 

  14. Bjorntorp, P. (1997). Body fat distribution, insulin resistance, and metabolic diseases. Nutrition, 13(9), 795–803.

    Google Scholar 

  15. Brunner, E. J., Chandola, T., & Marmot, M. G. (2007). Prospective effect of job strain on general and central obesity in the Whitehall II Study. American Journal of Epidemiology, 165(7), 828–837.

    Google Scholar 

  16. Burton, L. M., & Whitfield, K. E. (2003). “Weathering” towards poorer health in later life: Co-morbidity in urban low-income families. Public Policy and Aging Report, 13(3), 13–18.

    Google Scholar 

  17. Burton, L. M., & Whitfield, K. E. (2006). Health, aging, and America’s poor: Ethnographic insights on family co-morbidity and cumulative disadvantage. In J. Baars (Ed.), Aging, globalization, and inequality: The new critical gerontology (pp. 215–230). Amityville: Baywood Publishers.

    Google Scholar 

  18. Cawthon, R. M. (2002). Telomere measurement by quantitative PCR. Nucleic Acids Research, 30(10), e47.

    Google Scholar 

  19. Cawthon, R. M., Smith, K. R., O’Brien, E., Sivatchenko, A., & Kerber, R. A. (2003). Association between telomere length in blood and mortality in people aged 60 years or older. Lancet, 361(9355), 393–395.

    Google Scholar 

  20. Chan, S. R., & Blackburn, E. H. (2004). Telomeres and telomerase. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological Sciences, 359(1441), 109–121.

    Google Scholar 

  21. Charles, K. K., & Guryan, J. (2008). Prejudice and wages: An empirical assessment of Becker’s The Economics of Discrimination. Journal of Political Economy, 116(5), 773–809.

    Google Scholar 

  22. Charles, K. K., & Hurst, E. (2002). The transition to home ownership and the black-white wealth gap. Review of Economics and Statistics, 84(2), 281–297.

    Google Scholar 

  23. Cherkas, L. F., Aviv, A., Valdes, A. M., Hunkin, J. L., Gardner, J. P., Surdulescu, G. L., et al. (2006). The effects of social status on biological aging as measured by white-blood-cell telomere length. Aging Cell, 5(5), 361–365.

    Google Scholar 

  24. Chisholm, J. S. (1993). Death, hope, and sex: Life-history theory and the development of reproductive strategies. Current Anthropology, 34, 1–24.

    Google Scholar 

  25. Chisholm, J. S. (1999). Attachment and time preference: Relations between early stress and sexual behavior in a sample of American university women. Human Nature, 10, 51–83.

    Google Scholar 

  26. Cohen, S., & Williamson, G. M. (1988). Perceived stress in a probability sample of the United States. In S. Spacapan & S. Oskamp (Eds.), The social psychology of health (pp. 31–67). Newbury Park: Sage Publications.

    Google Scholar 

  27. Cohen, S., Schwartz, J. E., Epel, E., Kirschbaum, C., Sidney, S., & Seeman, T. (2006). Socioeconomic status, race, and diurnal cortisol decline in the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) Study. Psychosomatic Medicine, 68(1), 41–50.

    Google Scholar 

  28. Colen, C. G., Geronimus, A. T., Bound, J., & James, S. A. (2006). Maternal upward socioeconomic mobility and black-white disparities in infant birthweight. American Journal of Public Health, 96, 2032–2039.

    Google Scholar 

  29. Cooper, R. S., Kaufman, J. S., & Ward, R. (2003). Race and genomics. New England Journal of Medicine, 348(12), 1166–1170.

    Google Scholar 

  30. Crimmins, E. M., & Saito, Y. (2001). Trends in healthy life expectancy in the United States, 1970–1990: Gender, racial, and educational differences. Social Science and Medicine, 52(11), 1629–1641.

    Google Scholar 

  31. Dallman, M. F., Pecoraro, N., Akana, S. F., La Fleur, S. E., Gomez, F., Houshyar, H., et al. (2003). Chronic stress and obesity: A new view of “comfort food”. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 100(20), 11696–11701.

    Google Scholar 

  32. Darity, W. A., & Mason, P. L. (1998). Evidence on discrimination in employment: Codes of color, codes of gender. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 12(2), 63–90.

    Google Scholar 

  33. Demissie, S., Levy, D., Benjamin, E. J., Cupples, L. A., Gardner, J. P., Herbert, A., et al. (2006). Insulin resistance, oxidative stress, hypertension, and leukocyte telomere length in men from the Framingham Heart Study. Aging Cell, 5(4), 325–330.

    Google Scholar 

  34. Dilworth-Anderson, P., & Rhoden, L. (2000). Caregiving roles in older women. In N. J. Burgess & E. Brown (Eds.), African-American women: An ecological perspective (pp. 83–98). New York: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  35. Dilworth-Anderson, P., Williams, I. C., & Gibson, B. E. (2002). Issues of race, ethnicity, and culture in caregiving research: A 20-year review (1980–2000). Gerontologist, 42(2), 237–272.

    Google Scholar 

  36. Edo, M. D., & Andres, V. (2005). Aging, telomeres, and atherosclerosis. Cardiovascular Research, 66(2), 213–221.

    Google Scholar 

  37. Epel, E. S., McEwen, B., Seeman, T., Matthews, K., Castellazzo, G., Brownell, K. D., et al. (2000). Stress and body shape: Stress-induced cortisol secretion is consistently greater among women with central fat. Psychosomatic Medicine, 62(5), 623–632.

    Google Scholar 

  38. Epel, E. S., Blackburn, E. H., Lin, J., Dhabhar, F. S., Adler, N. E., Morrow, J. D., et al. (2004). Accelerated telomere shortening in response to life stress. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 101(49), 17312–17315.

    Google Scholar 

  39. Epel, E. S., Lin, J., Wilhelm, F. H., Wolkowitz, O. M., Cawthon, R., Adler, N. E., et al. (2006). Cell aging in relation to stress arousal and cardiovascular disease risk factors. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 31(3), 277–287.

    Google Scholar 

  40. Flegal, K. M., Carroll, M. D., Ogden, C. L., & Johnson, C. L. (2002). Prevalence and trends in obesity among US adults, 1999–2000. Journal of the American Medical Association, 288(14), 1723–1727.

    Google Scholar 

  41. Frenck, R. W., Jr., Blackburn, E. H., & Shannon, K. M. (1998). The rate of telomere sequence loss in human leukocytes varies with age. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 95(10), 5607–5610.

    Google Scholar 

  42. Gallagher-Thompson, D., Shurgot, G. R., Rider, K., Gray, H. L., McKibbin, C. L., Kraemer, H. C., et al. (2006). Ethnicity, stress, and cortisol function in Hispanic and non-Hispanic white women: A preliminary study of family dementia caregivers and noncaregivers. American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 14(4), 334–342.

    Google Scholar 

  43. Gee, G. C., & Payne-Sturges, D. C. (2004). Environmental health disparities: A framework integrating psychosocial and environmental concepts. Environmental Health Perspectives, 112(17), 1645–1653.

    Google Scholar 

  44. Geronimus, A. T. (1992). The weathering hypothesis and the health of African-American women and infants: Evidence and speculations. Ethnicity and Disease, 2(3), 207–221.

    Google Scholar 

  45. Geronimus, A. T. (2001). Understanding and eliminating racial inequalities in women’s health in the United States: The role of the weathering conceptual framework. Journal of the American Medical Women’s Association, 56(4), 133–136, 149–150.

    Google Scholar 

  46. Geronimus, A. T., & Thompson, J. P. (2004). To denigrate, ignore, or disrupt: Racial inequality in health and the impact of a policy-induced breakdown of African American communities. Du Bois Review: Social Science Research on Race, 1(2), 247–279.

    Google Scholar 

  47. Geronimus, A. T., Bound, J., Waidmann, T. A., Hillemeier, M. M., & Burns, P. B. (1996). Excess mortality among blacks and whites in the United States. New England Journal of Medicine, 335(21), 1552–1558.

    Google Scholar 

  48. Geronimus, A. T., Bound, J., & Waidmann, T. A. (1999). Poverty, time, and place: variation in excess mortality across selected US populations, 1980–1990. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 53(6), 325–334.

    Google Scholar 

  49. Geronimus, A. T., Bound, J., Waidmann, T. A., Colen, C. G., & Steffick, D. (2001). Inequality in life expectancy, functional status, and active life expectancy across selected black and white populations in the United States. Demography, 38(2), 227–251.

    Google Scholar 

  50. Geronimus, A. T., Hicken, M., Keene, D., & Bound, J. (2006). “Weathering” and age patterns of allostatic load scores among blacks and whites in the United States. American Journal of Public Health, 96(5), 826–833.

    Google Scholar 

  51. Geronimus, A. T., Bound, J., Keene, D., & Hicken, M. (2007). Black-white differences in age trajectories of hypertension prevalence among adult women and men, 1999–2002. Ethnicity and Disease, 17(1), 40–48.

    Google Scholar 

  52. Geronimus, A. T., Bound, J., & Colen, C. G. (2008). To live and die in the United States: Race, place, and black-white health inequalities during the 1990s. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Population Association of America, New Orleans.

  53. Gil, M. E., & Coetzer, T. L. (2004). Real-time quantitative PCR of telomere length. Molecular Biotechnology, 27(2), 169–172.

    Google Scholar 

  54. Gil, A. G., Wagner, E. F., & Tubman, J. G. (2004). Culturally sensitive substance abuse intervention for Hispanic and African American adolescents: Empirical examples from the Alcohol Treatment Targeting Adolescents in Need (ATTAIN) Project. Addiction, 99(Suppl 2), 140–150.

    Google Scholar 

  55. Graakjaer, J., Bischoff, C., Korsholm, L., Holstebroe, S., Vach, W., Bohr, V. A., et al. (2003). The pattern of chromosome-specific variations in telomere length in humans is determined by inherited, telomere-near factors and is maintained throughout life. Mechanisms of Ageing and Development, 124(5), 629–640.

    Google Scholar 

  56. Green, R. L., Roinestad, I. C., Boland, C., & Hennessy, L. K. (2005). Developmental validation of the Quantifiler (TM) real-time PCR kits for the quantification of human nuclear DNA samples. Journal of Forensic Sciences, 50(4), 809–825.

    Google Scholar 

  57. Guthrie, B. J., Young, A. M., Williams, D. R., Boyd, C. J., & Kintner, E. K. (2002). African American girls’ smoking habits and day-to-day experiences with racial discrimination. Nursing Research, 51(3), 183–190.

    Google Scholar 

  58. Haider, S., & Solon, G. (2006). Life-cycle variation in the association between current and lifetime earnings. American Economic Review, 96(4), 1308–1320.

    Google Scholar 

  59. Harrison, D., Griendling, K. K., Landmesser, U., Hornig, B., & Drexler, H. (2003). Role of oxidative stress in atherosclerosis. American Journal of Cardiology, 91(3A), 7A–11A.

    Google Scholar 

  60. Hayward, M. D., & Heron, M. (1999). Racial inequality in active life among adult Americans. Demography, 36(1), 77–91.

    Google Scholar 

  61. Hicks-Bartlett, S. (2000). Between a rock and a hard place: The labyrinth of working and parenting in a poor community. In S. Danziger & A. C. Lin (Eds.), Coping with poverty: The social contexts of neighborhood, work, and family in the African-American community (pp. 27–51). Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

    Google Scholar 

  62. Holzer, H. J., Offner, P., & Sorensen, E. (2005). Declining employment among young black less-educated men: The role of incarceration and child support. Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 24(2), 329–350.

    Google Scholar 

  63. Houben, J. M., Moonen, H. J., van Schooten, F. J., & Hageman, G. J. (2008). Telomere length assessment: biomarker of chronic oxidative stress? Free Radical Biology and Medicine, 44(3), 235–246.

    Google Scholar 

  64. Iwama, H., Ohyashiki, K., Ohyashiki, J. H., Hayashi, S., Yahata, N., Ando, K., et al. (1998). Telomeric length and telomerase activity vary with age in peripheral blood cells obtained from normal individuals. Human Genetics, 102(4), 397–402.

    Google Scholar 

  65. Jarrett, R. L., & Burton, L. M. (1999). Dynamic dimensions of family-structure in low-income African American families: Emergent themes in qualitative research. Journal of Comparative Family Studies, 30(2), 177–187.

    Google Scholar 

  66. Kalinowski, L., Dobrucki, I. T., & Malinski, T. (2004). Race-specific differences in endothelial function: Predisposition of African Americans to vascular diseases. Circulation, 109(21), 2511–2517.

    Google Scholar 

  67. Kaufman, J. S., Cooper, R. S., & McGee, D. L. (1997). Socioeconomic status and health in blacks and whites: The problem of residual confounding and the resiliency of race. Epidemiology, 8(6), 621–628.

    Google Scholar 

  68. Khansari, N., Shakiba, Y., & Mahmoudi, M. (2009). Chronic inflammation and oxidative stress as a major cause of age-related diseases and cancer. Recent Patents on Inflammation & Allergy Drug Discovery, 3(1), 73–80.

    Google Scholar 

  69. Khera, A., McGuire, D. K., Murphy, S. A., Stanek, H. G., Das, S. R., Vongpatanasin, W., et al. (2005). Race and gender differences in C-reactive protein levels. Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 46(3), 464–469.

    Google Scholar 

  70. Lancaster, J. B. (1989). Evolutionary and cross-cultural perspectives on single parenthood. In R. Bell & N. Bell (Eds.), Sociobiology and the social sciences (pp. 63–72). Lubbock: Texas Tech University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  71. Lantz, P. M., House, J. S., Lepkowski, J. M., Williams, D. R., Mero, R. P., & Chen, J. (1998). Socioeconomic factors, health behaviors, and mortality: Results from a nationally representative prospective study of US adults. Journal of the American Medical Association, 279(21), 1703–1708.

    Google Scholar 

  72. LaViest, T. A., & Wallace, J. M. (2002). Health risk and inequitable distribution of liquor stores in African American neighborhoods. In T. LaViest (Ed.), Race, ethnicity and health (pp. 487–493). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

    Google Scholar 

  73. Lee, D. C., Im, J. A., Kim, J. H., Lee, H. R., & Shim, J. Y. (2005). Effect of long-term hormone therapy on telomere length in postmenopausal women. Yonsei Medical Journal, 46(4), 471–479.

    Google Scholar 

  74. Leon, K. A., Hyre, A. D., Ompad, D., Desalvo, K. B., & Muntner, P. (2007). Perceived stress among a workforce 6 months following hurricane Katrina. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 42(12), 1005–1011.

    Google Scholar 

  75. Levine, R. S., Foster, J. E., Fullilove, R. E., Fullilove, M. T., Briggs, N. C., Hull, P. C., et al. (2001). Black-white inequalities in mortality and life expectancy, 1933–1999: Implications for healthy people 2010. Public Health Reports, 116(5), 474–483.

    Google Scholar 

  76. Lindsey, J., McGill, N. I., Lindsey, L. A., Green, D. K., & Cooke, H. J. (1991). In vivo loss of telomeric repeats with age in humans. Mutation Research, 256(1), 45–48.

    Google Scholar 

  77. Ljung, T., Holm, G., Friberg, P., Andersson, B., Bengtsson, B. A., Svensson, J., et al. (2000). The activity of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and the sympathetic nervous system in relation to waist/hip circumference ratio in men. Obesity Research, 8(7), 487–495.

    Google Scholar 

  78. Lum, T. Y. (2005). Understanding the racial and ethnic differences in caregiving arrangements. Journal of Gerontological Social Work, 45(4), 3–21.

    Google Scholar 

  79. Martin-Ruiz, C., Dickinson, H. O., Keys, B., Rowan, E., Kenny, R. A., & Von Zglinicki, T. (2006). Telomere length predicts poststroke mortality, dementia, and cognitive decline. Annals of Neurology, 60(2), 174–180.

    Google Scholar 

  80. Matthews, C., Gorenne, I., Scott, S., Figg, N., Kirkpatrick, P., Ritchie, A., et al. (2006). Vascular smooth muscle cells undergo telomere-based senescence in human atherosclerosis: Effects of telomerase and oxidative stress. Circulation Research, 99(2), 156–164.

    Google Scholar 

  81. Mayer, S. E., & Jencks, C. (1988). Poverty and the distribution of material hardship. Journal of Human Resources, 24, 88–114.

    Google Scholar 

  82. McEwen, B. S. (1998). Protective and damaging effects of stress mediators. New England Journal of Medicine, 338(3), 171–179.

    Google Scholar 

  83. McEwen, B. S., & Seeman, T. (1999). Protective and damaging effects of mediators of stress. Elaborating and testing the concepts of allostasis and allostatic load. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 896, 30–47.

    Google Scholar 

  84. Mokdad, A. H., Ford, E. S., Bowman, B. A., Nelson, D. E., Engelgau, M. M., Vinicor, F., et al. (2001). The continuing increase of diabetes in the US. Diabetes Care, 24(2), 412.

    Google Scholar 

  85. Morello-Frosch, R., & Lopez, R. (2006). The riskscape and the color line: Examining the role of segregation in environmental health disparities. Environmental Research, 102(2), 181–196.

    Google Scholar 

  86. Morillas, J. R. (2007). Assets, earnings mobility and the black-white gap. Social Science Research, 36(2), 808–833.

    Google Scholar 

  87. Moyer, A. E., Rodin, J., Grilo, C. M., Cummings, N., Larson, L. M., & Rebuffe-Scrive, M. (1994). Stress-induced cortisol response and fat distribution in women. Obesity Research, 2(3), 255–262.

    Google Scholar 

  88. Mullings, L., & Wali, A. (2001). Stress and resilience: The social context of reproduction in Central Harlem. New York: Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers.

    Google Scholar 

  89. Neitzel, H. (1986). A routine method for the establishment of permanent growing lymphoblastoid cell lines. Human Genetics, 73(4), 320–326.

    Google Scholar 

  90. Okuda, K., Bardeguez, A., Gardner, J. P., Rodriguez, P., Ganesh, V., Kimura, M., et al. (2002). Telomere length in the newborn. Pediatric Research, 52(3), 377–381.

    Google Scholar 

  91. Ondrich, J., Ross, S., & Yinger, J. (2003). Now you see it, now you don’t: Why do real estate agents withhold available houses from black customers? Review of Economics and Statistics, 85(4), 854–873.

    Google Scholar 

  92. Oths, K. S., Dunn, L. L., & Palmer, N. S. (2001). A prospective study of psychosocial job strain and birth outcomes. Epidemiology, 12(6), 744–746.

    Google Scholar 

  93. Panagiotakos, D. B., Pitsavos, C., Yannakoulia, M., Chrysohoou, C., & Stefanadis, C. (2005). The implication of obesity and central fat on markers of chronic inflammation: The ATTICA study. Atherosclerosis, 183(2), 308–315.

    Google Scholar 

  94. Pearson, J. A. (2008). Can’t buy me whiteness: New lessons from the Titanic on race, ethnicity, and health. DuBois Review: Social Science Research on Race, 5(1), 27–47.

    Google Scholar 

  95. Sampson, M. J., Winterbone, M. S., Hughes, J. C., Dozio, N., & Hughes, D. A. (2006). Monocyte telomere shortening and oxidative DNA damage in type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Care, 29(2), 283–289.

    Google Scholar 

  96. Sapolsky, R. M. (1998). Why zebras don’t get ulcers: An updated guide to stress, stress-related diseases, and coping. New York: W. H. Freeman.

    Google Scholar 

  97. Sapolsky, R. M. (2004). Organismal stress and telomeric aging: An unexpected connection. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 101(50), 17323–17324.

    Google Scholar 

  98. Sapolsky, R. M., Romero, L. M., & Munck, A. U. (2000). How do glucocorticoids influence stress responses? Integrating permissive, suppressive, stimulatory, and preparative actions. Endocrinology Review, 21(1), 55–89.

    Google Scholar 

  99. Schoendorf, K. C., Hogue, C. J., Kleinman, J. C., & Rowley, D. (1992). Mortality among infants of black as compared with white college-educated parents. New England Journal of Medicine, 326(23), 1522–1526.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  100. Seeman, T. E., McEwen, B. S., Singer, B. H., Albert, M. S., & Rowe, J. W. (1997). Increase in urinary cortisol excretion and memory declines: MacArthur studies of successful aging. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, 82(8), 2458–2465.

    Google Scholar 

  101. Selye, H. (1956). The stress of life. New York: McGraw-Hill.

    Google Scholar 

  102. Sharp, L. K., Kimmel, L. G., Kee, R., Saltoun, C., & Chang, C. H. (2007). Assessing the Perceived Stress Scale for African American adults with asthma and low literacy. Journal of Asthma, 44(4), 311–316.

    Google Scholar 

  103. Slagboom, P. E., Droog, S., & Boomsma, D. I. (1994). Genetic determination of telomere size in humans: A twin study of 3 age-groups. American Journal of Human Genetics, 55(5), 876–882.

    Google Scholar 

  104. Sowers, M., Crawford, S. L., Sternfeld, B., Morganstein, D., Gold, E. B., Greendale, G. A., et al. (2000). SWAN: A multicenter, multiethnic, community-based cohort study of women and the menopausal transition. In R. A. Lobo, J. L. Kelsey, & R. Marcus (Eds.), Menopause: Biology and pathobiology (pp. 175–188). San Diego: Academic.

    Google Scholar 

  105. Stack, C. B. (1974). All our kin: Strategies for survival in a black community. New York: Harper and Row.

    Google Scholar 

  106. Stack, C. B., & Burton, L. M. (1993). Kinscripts. Journal of Comparative Family Studies, 24(2), 157–170.

    Google Scholar 

  107. Steptoe, A., & Marmot, M. (2006). Psychosocial, hemostatic, and inflammatory correlates of delayed poststress blood pressure recovery. Psychosomatic Medicine, 68(4), 531–537.

    Google Scholar 

  108. Stoddard, J. L., Johnson, C. A., Sussman, S., Dent, C., & Boley-Cruz, T. (1998). Tailoring outdoor tobacco advertizing to minorities in Los Angeles County. Journal of Health Communication, 3(2), 137–146.

    Google Scholar 

  109. Taylor, S. E. (2001). The health status of women. In R. L. Braithwaite & S. E. Taylor (Eds.), Health issues in the black community (pp. 55–72). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

    Google Scholar 

  110. Taylor, J., & Turner, R. J. (2002). Perceived discrimination, social stress, and depression in the transition to adulthood: Racial contrasts. Social Psychology Quarterly, 65(3), 213–225.

    Google Scholar 

  111. Valdes, A. M., Andrew, T., Gardner, J. P., Kimura, M., Oelsner, E., Cherkas, L. F., et al. (2005). Obesity, cigarette smoking, and telomere length in women. Lancet, 366(9486), 662–664.

    Google Scholar 

  112. Vines, A. I., Baird, D. D., Stevens, J., Hertz-Picciotto, I., Light, K. C., & McNeilly, M. (2007). Associations of abdominal fat with perceived racism and passive emotional responses to racism in African American women. American Journal of Public Health, 97(3), 526–530.

    Google Scholar 

  113. von Zglinicki, T. (2002). Oxidative stress shortens telomeres. Trends in Biochemical Science, 27(7), 339–344.

    Google Scholar 

  114. von Zglinicki, T., Pilger, R., & Sitte, N. (2000). Accumulation of single-strand breaks is the major cause of telomere shortening in human fibroblasts. Free Radical Biology and Medicine, 28(1), 64–74.

    Google Scholar 

  115. Wall, F. E., Henkel, R. D., Stern, M. P., Jenson, H. B., & Moyer, M. P. (1995). An efficient method for routine Epstein-Barr virus immortalization of human B lymphocytes. In Vitro Cellular and Developmental Biology Animal, 31(2), 156–159.

    Google Scholar 

  116. Wallace, R. B. (2001). Applying genetic study designs to social and behavioral population surveys. In E. F. Finch, J. W. Vaupel, & K. Kinsella (Eds.), Cells and surveys: Should biological measures be included in social science research? (pp. 229–249). Washington: National Academy Press.

    Google Scholar 

  117. Warren-Findlow, J. (2006). Weathering: Stress and heart disease in African American women living in Chicago. Qualitative Health Research, 16(2), 221–237.

    Google Scholar 

  118. Western, B. (2006). Punishment and inequality in America. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.

    Google Scholar 

  119. Wiemann, S. U., Satyanarayana, A., Tsahuridu, M., Tillmann, H. L., Zender, L., Klempnauer, J., et al. (2002). Hepatocyte telomere shortening and senescence are general markers of human liver cirrhosis. Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology Journal, 16(9), 935–942.

    Google Scholar 

  120. Williams, D. R. (1999). Race, socioeconomic status, and health. The added effects of racism and discrimination. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 896, 173–188.

    Google Scholar 

  121. Wilson, M., & Daly, M. (1997). Life expectancy, economic inequality, homicide, and reproductive timing in Chicago neighbourhoods. British Medical Journal, 314(7089), 1271–1274.

    Google Scholar 

  122. Wong, M. D., Shapiro, M. F., Boscardin, W. J., & Ettner, S. L. (2002). Contribution of major diseases to disparities in mortality. New England Journal of Medicine, 347(20), 1585–1592.

    Google Scholar 

  123. Wooldridge, J. M. (2002). Econometric analysis of cross section and panel data. Cambridge: MIT.

    Google Scholar 

  124. Yen, I. H., Ragland, D. R., Greiner, B. A., & Fisher, J. M. (1999). Workplace discrimination and alcohol consumption: Findings from the San Francisco Muni Health and Safety Study. Ethnicity and Disease, 9(1), 70–80.

    Google Scholar 

  125. Yinger, J. (1998). Evidence on discrimination in consumer markets. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 12(2), 23–40.

    Google Scholar 

  126. Zenk, S. N., Schulz, A. J., Israel, B. A., James, S. A., Bao, S., & Wilson, M. L. (2005). Neighborhood racial composition, neighborhood poverty, and the spatial accessibility of supermarkets in metropolitan Detroit. American Journal of Public Health, 95, 660–667.

    Google Scholar 

  127. Zenk, S. N., Schulz, A. J., Israel, B. A., James, S. A., Bao, S., & Wilson, M. L. (2006). Fruit and vegetable access differs by community racial composition and socioeconomic position in Detroit, Michigan. Ethnicity and Disease, 16(1), 275–280.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgments

Study analyses were supported by the National Institute on Aging (NIA), grants R01 AG032632 and T32 AG000221, and, through the Michigan Center on the Demography of Aging, grant AG012846. Support was also provided by the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University through a fellowship to Dr. Geronimus. The authors are also indebted to the SWAN Core Study and the SWAN Repository for collecting and providing access to study data, and to their sponsors, NIA, the National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Office of Research on Women’s Health, and the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. We are grateful for helpful comments from Drs. John Bound, Oliver Smithies, and MaryFran Sowers, from four anonymous reviewers, and from participants at the 2007 Chicago Biomeasures Workshop sponsored by CCBAR and The MacLean Center for Clinical Medical Ethics at The University of Chicago, in collaboration with the National Institute on Aging. We thank Diane Laviolette for help with preparation of the manuscript.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Arline T. Geronimus.

Appendix

Appendix

Telomere Length Measurement

The telomere amplification reaction for each sample included 35 ng of sample DNA, 25 μl of Power SYBR® Green PCR Master Mix (Applied Biosystems, Foster City, CA), 40 ng of E. Coli DNA, and the telomere primers, which have been specifically designed to prevent the formation of primer dimmers (Cawthon 2002). Final reaction volume was 50 μl. Telomere primer sequences were tel 1b 5′-CGGTTTGTTTGGGTTTGGGTTTGGGTTTGGGTTTGGGTT-3′ (final concentration of 100 nM) and tel 2b 5′-GGCTTGCCTTACCCTTACCCTTACCCTTACCCTTACCCT-3′ (final concentration of 900 nM) (Gil and Coetzer 2004). The single copy gene amplification reaction for each sample included 35 ng of sample DNA, 25 μl of Power SYBR® Green PCR Master Mix, 36B4 primers, and deionized, distilled water to a final volume of 50 μl. The 36B4 primer sequences are 36B4u 5′-CAGCAAGTGGGAAGGTGTAATCC-3′ (final concentration of 300 nM) and 36B4d 5′- CCCATTCTATCATCAACGGGTACAA-3′ (final concentration of 500 nM). All amplification runs were prepared in MicroAmp Optical 96-well reaction plates (Applied Biosystems, Foster City, CA). For each amplification run, known standards from a single DNA reference sample were also amplified (as described above) to ensure that the amplification was functioning as expected. Following the addition of all sample or standard DNA and reagents, the plates were sealed with a MicroAmp Optical Adhesive film (Applied Biosystems, Foster City, CA) and centrifuged at 3,000 rpm for approximately 20 s.

All reactions were performed on the ABI 7500 Real-Time qPCR system. Both amplifications (telomere and 36B4) included a heat-activation step at 9°C for 10 min. For the telomere amplification, this was followed by 25 cycles of 95°C for 15 s and 54°C for 1 min. For the 36B4 amplification, this was followed by 30 cycles of 95°C for 15 s, 58°C for 1 min. Fluorescence data was collected during the annealing/extension steps of both reactions. The instrument was set to run in 9600 emulation mode with auto ramping. Resulting data was analyzed with ABI’s SDS v1.2 software package using a manual Ct of 0.06 and the auto baseline setting. Telomere: 36B4 Ct ratios and telomere length were calculated using Cawthon’s (2002) formula.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Geronimus, A.T., Hicken, M.T., Pearson, J.A. et al. Do US Black Women Experience Stress-Related Accelerated Biological Aging?. Hum Nat 21, 19–38 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12110-010-9078-0

Download citation

Keywords

  • Health disparities
  • Aging
  • Stress
  • Race/ethnicity
  • Weathering
  • Women’s health
  • Poverty
  • Telomeres