Under the skin: using theories from biology and the social sciences to explore the mechanisms behind the black-white health gap.

Journal Article (Journal Article)

Equity and social well-being considerations make Black-White health disparities an area of important concern. Although previous research suggests that discrimination- and poverty-related stressors play a role in African American health outcomes, the mechanisms are unclear. Allostatic load is a concept that can be employed to demonstrate how environmental stressors, including psychosocial ones, may lead to a cumulative physiological toll on the body. We discuss both the usefulness of this framework for understanding how discrimination can lead to worse health among African Americans, and the challenges for conceptualizing biological risk with existing data and methods. We also contrast allostatic load with theories of historical trauma such as posttraumatic slavery syndrome. Finally, we offer our suggestions for future interdisciplinary research on health disparities.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Green, TL; Darity, WA

Published Date

  • April 2010

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 100 Suppl 1 /

Start / End Page

  • S36 - S40

PubMed ID

  • 20147678

Pubmed Central ID

  • PMC2837427

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1541-0048

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0090-0036

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.2105/ajph.2009.171140


  • eng