The Chronic Burden of Diabetes: Exploring the Racial Gap in Functional Status among Older Americans

Latrica E. Best, Pennsylvania State University

Past research indicates that diabetes is a serious condition that affects one's physical functioning and participation in daily activities. This paper assesses the extent to which diabetes becomes a physical, social, and financial burden in the lives of black and white older Americans. Working within the realm of the life course perspective, this paper seeks to establish whether childhood socioeconomic conditions can account for racial differences in the prevalence and subsequent burden of diabetes in later life, when burden refers to differences in physical functioning. Using logistic regression models derived from the 1998 wave of the Health and Retirement Survey, I examine the co-morbidity patterns and lifestyle behaviors of black and white older adults to examine the racial disparities in diabetes. Findings show that socioeconomic circumstances in one's childhood are linked significantly to the prevalence of diabetes and related chronic conditions in later life.

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Presented in Poster Session 5: Health and Mortality