Emerging data suggest that African-American women may fare worse than African-American men in health-related quality-of-life (HRQOL). Perceived discrimination is an important contributor to poor health overall among African Americans, but few studies examined the intersecting effects of perceived discrimination and gender in explaining HRQOL disparities. We investigated gender differences in HRQOL and tested whether perceived discrimination accounted for these differences.
We examined data from the Chicago Health and Aging Project in which 5652 African-American adults aged 65 and older completed structured questionnaires about demographic and socioeconomic characteristics, HRQOL, perceived discrimination, and health-related variables. Logistic regression models were used to identify associations between perceived discrimination and gender differences in poor HRQOL outcomes (defined as 14+ unhealthy days in overall, physical, or mental health over the past 30 days) when controlling for the other variables.
More women reported poor overall HRQOL than men (24 vs. 16% respectively). Higher perceived discrimination was significantly associated with worse overall HRQOL (OR 1.11; 95% CI 1.08, 1.15), with stronger effects for women in overall and mental HRQOL. These gender disparities remained significant until controlling for potentially confounding variables. Perceived discrimination did not account for gender differences in poor physical HRQOL.
Perceived discrimination is associated with poor HRQOL in older African Americans, with this association appearing stronger in women than men for mental HRQOL. These findings warrant further investigation of effects of perceived discrimination in gender disparities in overall health, and such research can inform and guide efforts for reducing these disparities.