Biological Risk, Physical Functioning, and Psychosocial Stress among Older Age Hispanics


The proposed research will improve understanding of the health profile of the aging Hispanic population in the United States and shed new light on social and biological mechanisms and life course processes underlying racial, ethnic, and nativity-status disparities in health. By examining how exposure to a diverse and comprehensive set of acute and chronic stressors across the life course relates to the biological risk and physical functioning of aging Hispanics, this research will provide new knowledge of the social patterning and determinants of population health disparities and inform prevention and intervention efforts aimed at achieving health equity.


The population of the U.S. is aging and becoming more racially and ethnically diverse, with projections estimating that nearly one in five individuals over sixty-five will be Hispanic by 2050. Given these trends, improving understanding of the state and determinants of the health among the growing older-age Hispanic population is essential to determining future patterns of health and longevity in the U.S. A wide body of literature across disciplines finds evidence of a Hispanic “mortality paradox,” with studies consistently documenting Hispanic mortality rates that are similar to or lower than the non-Hispanic White population. Despite a vast body of literature examining the Hispanic “mortality paradox,” several critical questions regarding the relative health and well-being of aging Hispanics in the U.S. remain. For one, it remains unclear whether and how the Hispanic mortality paradox extends to other outcomes, particularly pre-disease markers of biophysiological well-being and physical functioning. Additionally, questions about the social processes and exposures contributing to the observed patterns of Hispanic health, biological risk, and physical functioning persist. In particular, there is a dearth of research assessing how Hispanics’ exposure to psychosocial stressors across the life course contributes to their biological and physical health at older ages and differentiates their later life health from Blacks and Whites. Using nationally representative, longitudinal data, the proposed project fills these critical gaps by examining the biological and physical well-being of older age Hispanics, relative to Whites and Blacks, and further assessing the stress-related pathways underlying racial/ethnic and immigrant disparities in biomarkers of health and physical function. By utilizing markers physiological well-being and physical function and expanding the measurement of “stress” to include a variety of chronic and acute psychosocial exposures, this research will contribute new knowledge of the health profile of the aging Hispanic population in the U.S.; document the racial/ethnic and nativity-status patterning of life course psychosocial stress exposure among older age adults; and shed new light on the role of stress exposure in affecting physiological well-being and physical function and contributing to racial, ethnic, and nativity-status disparities disease emergence and progression in late life. Given the rapid growth of the older Hispanic population in the U.S., a more complete understanding of Hispanic health is of critical demographic, public health, and social policy importance.

Funded By: 
Award Dates: 
July 1, 2017 - March 30, 2018
PARC Grant Year: 
Year 24