Magazine article The Futurist

Racism's Unexpected Tolls: Lack of Resilience against Discrimination May Be a Factor in the Aging Process

Magazine article The Futurist

Racism's Unexpected Tolls: Lack of Resilience against Discrimination May Be a Factor in the Aging Process

Article excerpt

White males outlive black males by an average of about five years, according to the Centers for Disease Control. A new study from the University of Maryland may explain why: Internalized racism inflicts measurable biological damage on its victims, literally causing their bodies to age faster.

Chromosomes--strands of DNA--have protective "caps" on each end to preserve our genetic material, similar to the plastic tips found at the end of shoelaces. These telomeres get shorter each time a cell divides, and shortened telomeres are associated with accelerated aging, putting individuals at an increased risk for heart disease, dementia, and other medical problems.

"Telomere length may be a better indicator of biological age, which can give us insight into variations in the cumulative 'wear and tear' of the organism net of chronological age," study leader David Chae, an assistant professor of epidemiology, notes in a press statement.

Researchers asked the participants--African-American men aged 30 to 50 years old--about their experiences with racism (ranging from encounters with the police to job and housing discrimination to discourteous treatment while shopping). The study also used a tool known as the Black-White Implicit Association Test, which measured the men's unconscious biases about their own race. …

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