Race, Marital History, and Risks for Stroke in US Older Adults.
Stroke is among the leading causes of disability and death in the United States, and racial differences are greater for stroke than for all other major chronic diseases. Considering the equally sizeable racial disparities in marital life and associated risks across adulthood, the current study hypothesizes that black-white differences in marital history play an important role in the large racial inequalities in the incidence of stroke. The major objective are to (i) demonstrate how marital history is associated with the incidence of stroke, (ii) examine how marital factors mediate and/or moderate racial disparities in stroke, and (iii) examine the factors that may explain the associations. Using retrospective and prospective data from the Health and Retirement Study (n = 23,289), the results show that non-Hispanic (NH) blacks have significantly higher rates of marital instability, greater numbers of health-risk factors, and substantially higher rates of stroke compared with NH whites. Contrary to the cumulative disadvantage hypothesis, findings from discrete-time-hazard models show that the effects of marital history are more pronounced for NH whites than for NH blacks. Risks for stroke were significantly higher in NH whites who were currently divorced, remarried, and widowed, as well as in those with a history of divorce or widowhood, compared with NH whites who were continuously married. In NH blacks, risks for stroke were elevated only in those who had either never married or had been widowed-with no significant risks attributable to divorce. The potential mechanisms underlying the associations are assessed, and the implications of the findings are discussed.
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