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Physical Symptoms, Chronic and Life-Threatening Illness Trajectories Among Minority and Aging Populations

Author: BEVERLY P. LYONS and HELISSE LEVINE
Published in JHHSA, Vol. 36 No. 3

The purpose of this study is to determine the relationship across race/ethnicity relative to reported subjective physical symptoms and clinically assessed medical conditions among the aging minority population using the Health and Retirement Study data for years 1998- 2000. Poisson and negative binomial regressions were used to estimate three count dependent variables: physical symptom, chronic, and life- threatening medical conditions. Results indicate that while Black respondents were 18% more likely to report physical symptoms when compared to White respondents (B = .171, p < .01, e.171 = 1.18) and 1.06 times more likely to report life-threatening medical conditions (B = .058, p < .01, e.058 = 1.06), when SES variables were added being Black was no longer significantly associated with physical symptoms and chronic conditions. However, being Black did remain statistically significant and positively associated with life-threatening conditions, even after controlling for SES.
Results bear statistical and clinical significance, given that we are examining racial and ethnic groups. First, Blacks are at higher risk for premature death for a variety of reasons; this has implications on financial expenditures and on the quality of life. Second, growth among the Hispanic population is outpacing both White and Black populations. Policy initiatives, including geriatric health education, partnerships with community and grass-roots leaders will promote awareness.

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