Disparities in Stress Exposure and Later-Life Disability

TitleDisparities in Stress Exposure and Later-Life Disability
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2024
AuthorsSauerteig-Rolston, MR, Ferraro, KF
JournalInnovation in Aging
ISSN Number2399-5300
KeywordsActivities of Daily Living, Cumulative stress burden, ethnicity, nativity, race

Drawing from cumulative inequality theory and the weathering hypothesis, this study examined the relationship between life course stress exposure (measured cumulatively and by domains) and the onset of disability in later life among White, Black, US-born Hispanic, and foreign-born Hispanic older adults.Cross-sectional and longitudinal models were estimated using nationally representative data from the Health and Retirement Study (N=11,483). We used logistic regression models to examine associations between stress exposure and wave 1 disability (i.e., occurrence), and Weibull accelerated failure-time models to examine the relationship between stress exposure and age of onset of disability 12-14 years later (i.e., incidence). We tested for moderation between stress and disability by race, ethnicity, and Hispanic nativity.At wave 1, higher odds of disability occurrence were associated with cumulative stress burden (CSB) (OR= 4.93, 95\% CI: 2.95-8.23). In a model specifying domains of stressors, disability occurrence was associated with childhood financial strain (OR=1.22, CI: 1.01-1.46), lifetime traumatic events (OR=1.92, CI: 1.41-2.62), neighborhood disadvantage (OR=1.32, CI: 1.01-1.73), and major lifetime discrimination (OR=1.64, CI: 1.12-2.41). Over time, earlier onset of disability was associated with CSB (β = -0.39), childhood traumatic events (β = -0.16), adult financial strain (β = -0.17), everyday discrimination (β = -0.15), and major lifetime discrimination (β = -0.13). The effect of childhood traumatic events on the transition to disability was stronger for US-born Hispanic adults than White adults (occurring 33\% earlier).To reduce racial, ethnic, and nativity disparities in disability, it is important to consider the historical and structural disadvantages associated with stress exposure across the life course. It is also important to acknowledge that nativity influences stratification processes associated with disparities in racial and ethnic health trajectories.

Citation Key10.1093/geroni/igae039