In 1950, blacks died at a rate that was 1.6 times higher than that of the white population. Now, a recent report in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences notes that this gap remained the same in 1995 (1999;896:173–188).
In his study, David R. Williams, PhD, a sociologist at the University of Michigan, noted that overall death rates have declined for both races. However, in several leading causes of death, the racial gap is actually wider today than it was in 1950. Included in that group were heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and cirrhosis of the liver. The gap declined for flu, pneumonia, and homicide.
“The stability of racial differences in health is striking,” said Williams, a senior research scientist. “This is not an act of God. Neither does it simply reflect racial differences in individual behavior or biology. Instead, considerable evidence suggests that these striking racial differences in health and their persistence through time reflect, in large part, policies and practices that are linked to the historic legacy of racism and that have created adverse living conditions that are pathogenic for minority populations.”
He said economic differences between the races are reflected in the health differences. Men and women with higher incomes are healthier than those with lower incomes. However, at every level of income, blacks tended to have higher death rates than whites, a factor that could be caused by racism and discrimination.
Overall, Dr Williams found that blacks have higher death rates than whites for 8 of the 10 leading causes of death—heart disease, cancer, stroke, unintentional injury, flu and pneumonia, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, and cirrhosis of the liver. Hispanics and Native Americans have lower death rates than whites for heart disease, cancer, and stroke; however, their death rates are higher for diseases such as diabetes and cirrhosis of the liver.
- Copyright © 2000 by American Heart Association