According to a new Yale study published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine , older people living in disadvantaged neighborhoods become disabled about two years earlier than their counterparts in wealthier neighborhoods. The data also points to a tangible effect of structural racism in the lives of older Americans .
Tracking nearly 800 people
For the study, the researchers tracked a cohort of 754 people without disabilities who lived in south central Connecticut from 1998 to 2020. All participants were 70 years or older at the start of the study. They were interviewed each month about their ability to perform four essential activities of daily living: bathing, dressing, walking, and transferring from a chair without assistance.
They thus found that, on average, a 70-year-old person in a disadvantaged neighborhood maintained their independence for an additional 12.3 years . But a 70-year-old in a more affluent neighborhood remained independent for an average of 14.2 more years.
The researchers said there are many possible factors that contribute to the disparity between disadvantaged and disadvantaged neighborhoods. They include access to quality health care, the availability of nutritious food, the condition of local sidewalks, access to public transportation, and stress related to neighborhood crime or violence in some places. Future research will aim to highlight public policies that could alleviate environmental disparities in the disability process