The Great Recession and health risks in African American youth

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

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations

Abstract

In the present study, we investigated associations of macro-economic conditions - the Great Recession - with cellular epigenetic aging, allostatic load, and self-reported health, in a group that experiences significant health disparities, African Americans. A sample of 330 African American adolescents in Georgia was followed from pre-recession (2007, M age = 16.6) to post-recession (2010, M age = 19.3). Economic data were collected in both 2007 and 2010. Three groups were formed to represent economic trajectories across the period of the Great Recession (stable low economic hardship, downward mobility, and stable high economic hardship). At age 19, measures of cellular epigenetic aging (derived from leukocyte DNA methylation profiles, reflecting the disparity between a person's biological and chronological age), allostatic load (composite of blood pressure, C reactive protein, cortisol, epinephrine, norepinephrine, and body mass index), and adolescent self-report of health were obtained. Linear trend analyses documented significant differences across all outcomes. The more time adolescents spent under economic hardship, the higher their epigenetic aging [estimate = 1.421, SE = 0.466, p = .002] and allostatic load [estimate = 1.151, SE = 0.375, p = .002] scores, and the worse their self-report of health [estimate = 4.957, SE = 1.800, p = .006]. Specific group comparisons revealed that adolescents in the downward mobility group had higher levels of allostatic load than adolescents in the stable low hardship group [p < .05]. Overall, these findings suggest that the health profiles of African American youth may in part be shaped by environmental macro-economic societal conditions, and that effects on biological markers can be detected relatively early in life.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)234-241
Number of pages8
JournalBrain, Behavior, and Immunity
Volume53
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 1 2016

Keywords

  • Adolescent health
  • Epigenetic aging
  • Socioeconomic status

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Behavioral Neuroscience

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