Evidence of Accelerated Aging Among African Americans and Its Implications for Mortality

M.E. Levine and E.M. Crimmins, Science Direct, July 22, 2014


Blacks experience morbidity and mortality earlier in the life course compared to whites. Such premature declines in health may be indicative of an acceleration of the aging process. The current study uses data on 7644 black and white participants, ages 30 and above, from the third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, to compare the biological ages of blacks and whites as indicated from a combination of ten biomarkers and to determine if such differences in biological age relative to chronological age account for racial disparities in mortality. At a specified chronological age, blacks are approximately 3 years older biologically than whites. Differences in biological age between blacks and whites appear to increase up until ages 60–65 and then decline, presumably due to mortality selection. Finally, differences in biological age were found to completely account for higher levels of all-cause, cardiovascular and cancer mortality among blacks. Overall, these results suggest that being black is associated with significantly higher biological age at a given chronological age and that this is a pathway to early death both overall and from the major age-related diseases.

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