In a white-dominated society, black men are less likely to have high-income relatives or social and business connections that can open doors for them, says Thomas LaVeist, a sociologist and dean of Tulane University School of Public Health. . “There needs to be a designated effort to provide a ramp” for black men, he says.
Usually, more education leads to better health, even though black men in the U.S. don’t get the same benefit as other groups, the research suggests.
The reasons for the gap are annoying, experts said, but they can provide an important window into the unique challenges black men face as they try to gain not only good health but also a level of equality in the world. United States.
In general, higher education means better paid jobs and health insurance, healthier behaviors and a longer life. This is true in many demographic groups. And studies show that life expectancy is higher for educated black men (those with college or higher education) compared to those who have not finished high school.
But the increase is not as great as it is for whites. This adds to the many health obstacles that black men already face. They are more likely to die from chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer than white men, and their average life expectancy is lower. Experts point to several factors that could play a role, but many said racism is the most widespread.
Researchers point out that black women face many of the same challenges as black men, but black women tend to have a longer life expectancy than black men. (They also point out that it is difficult to draw conclusions about Hispanic residents due to the lack of studies on the problems.) As a result, many experts said the health problems stem from a persistent devaluation of black men in society. American.
“At all levels of income and education, there is still a race effect,” said David Williams, a public health professor at Harvard University who developed a nearly 30-year scale that quantified the connection between racism and health.
The precise difference in health gains between educated white men and educated black men is difficult to pinpoint because of differences in study designs. Some studies, for example, look at life expectancy, while others look at the burden of illness or depression.
Experts said, however, that the evidence is strong and compelling that these gaps have persisted for many years. A 2012 study published in Health Affairs, for example, found that the life expectancy of white men with more education was 12.9 years longer than in white men with less education. For black men, the difference was 9.7 years.
In addition, other research shows how this gap develops. A 2019 study examined years of “lost life” (years cut short by health problems) between groups. According to the study, published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, black men lost 12.09 years, while white men lost 8.34 years.
Racism affects the health of black men and is persistent, experts said.
“It doesn’t matter how far you go to school, whatever you do, you’re still a black man,” said Derek Novacek, a doctor of clinical psychology from Emory University who is researching black-and-white health differences at UCLA. .
S. Jay Olshansky, a professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of Illinois at Chicago and lead author of the 2012 study, said potential risk factors for various diseases and environmental problems could also play a role: ” “I would be very surprised if this was not part of the equation. The risk of diabetes and obesity is much higher in the black population, even in those with a high education.”
Other possible causes investigated by researchers include stress and depression.
“When you follow other groups, with more education decreases depression,” said Dr. Shervin Assari, an associate professor of medicine at Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science in Los Angeles County, California, who studies race, the gender and health. “But when you look at black men, guess what? Depression increases.”
Depression is often an indicator of physical well-being and a contributing factor to many chronic diseases, such as hypertension, obesity, and diabetes.
Isolated at home and at work
Researchers who study the health of various ethnic and racial groups, as well as the social factors that influence health outcomes, see cause for concern. The findings suggest that the power of discrimination to harm the lives of black men may be more persistent than previously understood. And they could mean that improving the health of black men can be more complicated than previously thought.
“What has surprised me is how discrimination powerfully and consistently predicts ill health,” Williams said.
Covid-19 has highlighted the problem. As early as last April, researchers noticed higher mortality and hospitalization rates for blacks. Patterns have persisted, with black patients nearly twice as likely as whites to die from the virus and black men having the highest rates of covide deaths.
The coveted results, Williams and others suggested, helped point out that the health and well-being of middle-class, educated black men has been overlooked.
Higher education has not brought about the health equity that many experts had hoped for. Although black men are in worse health than other groups if they are not educated, they cannot catch up with their white peers even if they are.
“What society has done to black men is to corner them,” Assari said.
Black men, even with educational backgrounds, have a lower social and financial safety net than white men. This promotes stress, experts said. Also, while black men climb a corporate, academic, or managerial ladder, many feel isolated. And social isolation harms health.
Thomas LaVeist, a sociologist and dean of the Tulane University School of Public Health, said that in a white-dominated society, black men are less likely to have high-income relatives or social and business connections that can open doors for them. . And once hired in the workplace, they are less likely to have mentors, LaVeist said, and the lack of connections is associated with stress, depression and other factors that can lead to worse health.
“There needs to be a designated effort to provide a ramp” for black men, he said.
And they may have experienced more accumulated adversity and continued racism.
“Your high socioeconomic status does not protect you from the impact or incidence” of racism, Dr. Adrian Tyndall, associate vice president of strategic and academic affairs at the University of Florida Health.
“That’s hard,” added Tyndall, who is black. “If I had to get out of this institution and into the community, where people don’t know me, they could say the word N. And yes, it’s pretty depressing.”