Disentangling the Stress Process: Race/Ethnic Differences in the Exposure and Appraisal of Chronic Stressors Among Older Adults
Brown, Lauren L., Uchechi A. Mitchell, and Jennifer Ailshire. Forthcoming. "Disentangling the Stress Process: Race/Ethnic Differences in the Exposure and Appraisal of Chronic Stressors Among Older Adults." The Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences.
Exposure to stressors is differentially distributed by race/ethnicity with minority groups reporting a higher stress burden than their white counterparts. However, to really understand the extent to which some groups bear a disproportionate stress burden, we need to consider race/ethnic differences in stress appraisal, specifically how upsetting stressors may be, in addition to stress exposure. We examine racial/ethnic differences in both the number of reported chronic stressors across five domains (health, financial, residential, relationship, and caregiving) and their appraised stressfulness among a diverse sample of older adults.
Data come from 6,567 adults ages 52+ from the 2006 Health and Retirement Study.
Results show older blacks, U.S. and foreign-born Hispanics report more chronic stress exposure than whites and are two to three times as likely to experience financial strain and housing-related stress. Socioeconomic factors fully explain the Hispanic-white difference in stress exposure, but black-white differences remain. Despite experiencing a greater number of stressors, blacks and U.S.-born Hispanics are less likely to be upset by exposure to stressors than whites. U.S.-born Hispanics are less upset by relationship-based stressors specifically, while blacks are less upset across all stress domains in fully-adjusted models. Foreign-born Hispanics are only less upset by caregiving strain.
The distinction between exposure and appraisal-based measures of stress may shed light on important pathways that differentially contribute to race/ethnic physical and mental health disparities.