Is Exposure Enough? Race Differences in Chronic Stress Exposure, Appraisal, and Mental Health Among Older Adults

Lauren Brown , Population Studies Center
Jennifer A. Ailshire, University of Southern California

Prior research and theory have suggested that exposure to objectively stressful events contributes to race/ethnic mental health disparities in older adulthood. Yet, in order to understand the extent to which some groups bear a disproportionate stress and mental health burden we need to consider race differences in stress appraisal, specifically how upsetting they may-be, in addition to stress exposure. We examine race differences in the number of reported chronic stressors across 5 domains (health, financial, residential, relationship and caregiving), their appraised stressfulness and their varying association with anxiety and depression among a diverse sample of older adults. Data come from 6,019 adults ages 52+ from the 2006 Health and Retirement Study. Fully adjusted OLS models show stress exposure and appraisal are positively and independently associated with anxiety and depressive symptoms. Race and stress interactions suggest stress exposure and appraisal have varying consequences for the mental health of whites and blacks.

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 Presented in Session 133. Race, Ethnicity, and the Demography of Mental Health