Study: Income, Not Race, May Be the Biggest Predictor in Health Habits

Researchers believe that racial disparities are due to disproportionate poverty.

Posted: 12/08/2011 08:50 AM EST
Filed Under Health News, obesity

Health News, obesity,Diet,habits

We know that racial health disparities and differences exist, especially when it comes to weight, diet and exercise. Researchers from John Hopkins believe that income level better explains why these differences are so prevalent in the U.S.


By analyzing data taken from over 4,300 people, the researchers found that people who have less money are more likely to weigh more than people how have more money, regardless of race and ethnicity. They also found that income played a factor in health knowledge and literacy.


HealthDay reported:


The participants had completed the Diet and Health Knowledge Survey, which asked questions related to diet and health. Socioeconomic status was assessed using education and household income.


In general, Blacks had higher body mass index (BMI, a measurement that takes into account height and weight), scored lower on the USDA's healthy eating index and got less exercise than whites. Hispanics scored higher on the health index than whites, the study authors noted.


After they controlled for socioeconomic status, the researchers found that differences in the health index between whites and Blacks become smaller, while differences between whites and Hispanics became greater.


The researchers admit that they expected for more social and cultural factors to play a larger role in their findings, but instead found that it was all about the Benjamins.


Dr. Youfa Wang, director of the Johns Hopkins Global Center for Childhood Obesity, wrote, "Different from what we expected, few of the racial/ethnic differences in diet, exercise and weight status were explained by health- and nutrition-related psychosocial factors. But [socioeconomic status] explained a considerable portion of the disparities."


In reality, these findings really shouldn't come as a shock.


Yes, social and cultural factors related to black folks do play a role in our health — our love for soul food, our obsession with curves, our attitudes about food and eating healthy, maintaining hairstyles and working out, etc. I have written in much detail for about how we must shift our attitudes about nutrition, health and exercise with the help of better health literacy.


But our poor health cannot be explained away as something just inherently wrong with who we are as a community — there is so much more at play.


I mean, think about it: It's not a coincidence that the communities that are the most fragile, most fragmented and have the least amount of power, influence and options are the ones with the worst health and mortality rates. And given the history of systematic oppression in the U.S., socioeconomics and race must go hand in hand.


Hopefully, this study from John Hopkins and more like it will continue to drill in the heads of policy makers that economic stability and access to quality health care and healthy affordable foods are the major barriers to our health, and that more needs to be done about it.


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