Discrimination, racial identity, and cytokine levels among african-american adolescents

Gene H. Brody*, Tianyi Yu, Gregory E. Miller, Edith Chen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

67 Scopus citations


Purpose Low-grade inflammation, measured by circulating levels of cytokines, is a pathogenic mechanism for several chronic diseases of aging. Identifying factors related to inflammation among African-American youths may yield insights into mechanisms underlying racial disparities in health. The purpose of the study was to determine whether (1) reported racial discrimination from ages 17-19 years forecasts heightened cytokine levels at the age of 22 years and (2) this association is lower for youths with positive racial identities. Methods A longitudinal research design was used with a community sample of 160 African-Americans who were aged 17 years at the beginning of the study. Discrimination and racial identity were measured with questionnaires, and blood was drawn to measure basal cytokine levels. Ordinary least squares regression analyses were used to examine the hypotheses. Results After controlling for socioeconomic risk, life stress, depressive symptoms, and body mass index, racial discrimination (β =.307; p <.01), racial identity (β = -.179; p <.05), and their interaction (β = -.180; p <.05) forecast cytokine levels. Youths exposed to high levels of racial discrimination evinced elevated cytokine levels 3 years later. This association was not significant for young adults with positive racial identities. Conclusions High levels of interpersonal racial discrimination and the development of a positive racial identity operate jointly to determine low-grade inflammation levels that have been found to forecast chronic diseases of aging, such as coronary disease and stroke.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)496-501
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Adolescent Health
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2015


  • African-Americans
  • Cytokines
  • Health status disparities
  • Inflammation
  • Minority health
  • Racism Self-concept

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


Dive into the research topics of 'Discrimination, racial identity, and cytokine levels among african-american adolescents'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this