Academic journal article Journal of Cultural Diversity

Prevalence and Severity of Symptoms in a Sample of African Americans and White Participants

Academic journal article Journal of Cultural Diversity

Prevalence and Severity of Symptoms in a Sample of African Americans and White Participants

Article excerpt

Abstract: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2013), African Americans have a substantially greater prevalence of a range of health conditions when compared to other racial or ethnic groups. Many of these conditions have been attributed to the historical and contemporary social and economic disparities faced by the African American community. While many health conditions occur at a higher rate in African Americans, it is unclear whether there are specific symptom clusters that may also be more prevalent in African Americans as a result of these disparities. Potential differences in symptomology have not been thoroughly examined between African Americans and White populations. The current study compares the prevalence and pain severity of symptoms among a sample of African Americans and White participants. Significant differences in symptom prevalence were found in disturbed sleep and reproductive areas. African Americans also experience more pain due to symptoms related to orthostatic intolerance. Implications of this finding are discussed.

Key Words: Orthostatic Intolerance, African Americans, Symptoms, Symptomology

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (2013), African Americans endorse a disproportionately greater prevalence of a variety of illnesses and conditions across the life span compared with other racial or ethnic populations. These include, but are not limited to infant mortality, teen pregnancy, asthma, hypertension, tobacco usage, obesity, high cholesterol, lack of physical activity, seasonal influenza, HIV / AIDS, and tuberculosis (CDC, 2013). Additionally, African Americans have been found to experience greater incidence and mortality rates for cancers, such as those of the oropharynx, colorectum, lung and bronchus, cervix, and prostate (Walker, Figgs, & Zahm, 1995).

Along with higher illness prevalence, the National Longitudinal Mortality Study revealed greater mortality rates in African Americans compared to Whites among those under 65 years old (Sorlie, Backlund, & Keller, 1995). Even when controlling for other demographic variables (i.e., income), the health status of minorities has still ranked lower than Whites (Institute of Medicine, 2003). These disparities have been attributed to issues with access and quality of health care, nutrition, housing, education, and employment (Sankar et al., 2003). Others have pointed to additional factors including the effects of social and economic inequalities, prejudice, and systematic bias on the overall health of minority populations (Johnson, Saha, Arbelaez, Beach, & Cooper, 2004). However, the relationship between these factors and the increased prevalence of these types of illnesses and behaviors is still unclear.

In order to better understand and address the disparities among these illnesses, it would be useful to examine differences in the symptom profile or the specific types of symptoms that African Americans and Whites may experience. The experience and consequences of different symptoms are often described within a psychological, physiological, behavioral, and sociocultural context (Dodd et al., 2001; Parker, Kimble, Dunbar, & Clark, 2005). Thus, there may be certain symptom clusters that are more prevalent in African Americans than in Whites as a result of these social or economic difficulties. This, in turn, affects the types of illnesses that might exist for African Americans.

Instead of focusing on symptom clusters that are specific to a single illness or one bodily organ, there is a need to examine more generalized symptoms that may affect the different major systems in the body. These differences are important, as they may be major contributing factors to the health disparities that are present among African American populations. The purpose of the current exploratory study is to examine the prevalence and severity of symptoms experienced among a fatigued sample of African Americans and White participants. …

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