Cardiovascular Function and Cellular Aging in Low-Income Mothers
Discrimination predicts several negative health outcomes, including all-cause mortality, cardiovascular disease, and immune response. Mechanisms such as the development of hypertension and biological aging via telomere attrition are plausible pathways from discrimination to these health outcomes, as evidenced by past research linking them to discrimination. Recent evidence suggests that cultural and psychosocial factors such as Afro-centric world view and social support protect individuals from the harmful health outcomes associated with discrimination. The current study had two main aims addressed with secondary data analyses of longitudinal data from a study conducted by researchers and community partners in five sites across the United States. The objectives were: (1) To test the effect of two forms of discrimination (lifetime and everyday) reported by Black mothers on blood pressure eleven months later (Study 1) and to test effects of the same two types of discrimination among a multi-ethnic (Latina, White, Black) sample of mothers on telomere length eight years later (Study 2); (2) To determine if racial identity, a construct representing one’s beliefs about their race, modifies the effect that discrimination has on the aforementioned outcomes. Results of Study 1 indicated that lifetime discrimination was significantly associated with systolic blood pressure but not diastolic for Black mothers, while everyday discrimination was not associated with either. However, further analyses revealed that everyday and lifetime discrimination attributed to one’s ancestry or accent were significantly associated with systolic blood pressure for Black mothers but not diastolic. Racial identity did not significantly modify the effect of either lifetime or everyday discrimination on resting blood pressure. In Study 2, results indicated that mothers with higher lifetime discrimination had shorter telomere length. Additionally, mothers with higher everyday discrimination based on ancestry/accent had shorter telomere length. Furthermore, racial identity and commitment to one’s identity modified the effect of discrimination on telomere length, such that mothers with high identity had attenuated effects of discrimination on telomere attrition. These findings address some of the inconsistencies in the discrimination and blood pressure literature, as well as solidify the findings on discrimination and telomere attrition. Furthermore, these results highlight racial identity as a potentially protective factor against discrimination and emphasize the importance of attributing the reason for discrimination in psychological research.