Discrimination and Poor Health: Weathering vs. Habituation

Torsheika Maddox, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Much has been written on the costs of discrimination for health outcomes, yet how these effects accumulate over time remains poorly understood. Two paradigms offer related but distinct models of discriminatory stress in a life-course framework: 1. Poor health at older ages can be attributed to the accumulation of discrimination across the life-course (weathering) (Geromimus, 1992); 2. The effects of later-life discrimination on health are minimized by early and constant exposure to stressors (habituation) (Williams et al., 2003). Regrettably, this line of research has evinced methodological shortcomings: a reliance on cross-sectional data, small sample sizes, and inadequate controlling of confounding variation. This study tests for evidence of these two competing models about life-course experiences of discrimination using CARDIA study data, a longitudinal dataset with an array of health indicators. The results inform research on health disparities and life-course trajectories more broadly, while signifying the possible protective aspects of stress exposure.

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Presented in Poster Session 7