Stress Processes and the Physical Health of Older Black Women

Book Section

Although older Black women experience disproportionately high rates of morbidity, relatively little is known about the psychosocial mechanisms underlying their health. This study advances the field by drawing on stress processes and intersectionality frameworks to understand the health consequences of psychosocial factors among a nationally representative sample of Black women over the age of 50. We take a broad and systematic approach to analyzing relationships among psychosocial stressors and resources and health among older Black women to address three research questions. First, how do stressors (discrimination, chronic stressors, traumatic events, and financial strains) individually and collectively influence health? Second, are psychosocial resources (social support, mastery, optimism, religiosity, and prayer) protective of health? Third, to what extent do psychosocial resources moderate relationships between stressors and health? To address these questions, we utilize data from the Health and Retirement Survey (HRS) Core Data and Psychosocial Modules (N = 1, 263) and nested multivariate regression analyses. We focus on measures of global health and functional health, which have previously established relationships with stress processes. Results highlight the utility of examining the health consequences of stressors collectively rather than individually in order to avoid biased estimates. Findings also indicate that several of the psychosocial resources examined are protective of older Black women’s health; we find no evidence that these resources moderate the impacts of stressors on their self-rated health or functional limitations. We conclude by discussing the theoretical, substantive, and methodological implications of these findings.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Smith, IZ; Hargrove, TW; Rose, DJ; Brown, TH

Published Date

  • January 1, 2021

Book Title

  • Annual Review of Gerontology and Geriatrics, Volume 41, 2021: Black Older Adults in the Era of Black Lives Matter

Start / End Page

  • 303 - 326

International Standard Book Number 13 (ISBN-13)

  • 9780826166319

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1891/0198-8794.41.303

Citation Source

  • Scopus