A recent study conducted by the American Heart Association discovered that as socioeconomic status improves in areas such as education, income, employment, and health insurance, these improvements are more commonly seen among non-Hispanic individuals rather than black and Asian individuals in the United States. The study specifically found that these improvements tend to benefit individuals of white ancestry.
Dr. Joshua J. Joseph, an associate professor of internal medicine at The Ohio State University School of Medicine in Columbus and the senior author of the study, emphasized that the objective of economic interventions and social policies is to improve health outcomes for everyone. However, this study revealed that these interventions do not equally benefit individuals from various racial or ethnic groups.
The study utilized data from the Nutrition Survey (NHANES 2011-2018) and examined personal information from 13,500 individuals. Researchers used the American Heart Association’s Life’s Essential 8 indicators to measure socioeconomic status and ideal heart health across different racial and ethnic groups in the United States. These eight indicators include aspects such as healthy eating, physical activity, smoking cessation, adequate sleep, weight management, and overall health care. The Life’s Essential 8 scores range from 0 to 100.
Upon analyzing the data, researchers found that individuals with higher socioeconomic status generally had better heart health. However, the association between socioeconomic improvements and heart health was stronger for whites compared to other racial or ethnic groups. The Life’s Essential 8 scores also revealed differences between races and ethnicities. For instance, individuals with a college education experienced an increase in their heart health scores. Whites saw their scores increase by 15 points, while blacks and Hispanics saw a 10-point increase, and Asians saw an 8-point increase. When comparing Medicaid and private insurance, whites reported a 13-point decrease in scores, whereas other racial and ethnic groups reported a 5- to 6-point decrease.
The researchers believe that racial discrimination, medical mistrust, and limited access to care experienced by minority groups contribute to psychosocial stress and disparities in cardiovascular health. However, further research is necessary to establish a causal relationship between an individual’s socioeconomic status and their Life’s Essential 8 scores.
These findings highlight the importance of preventing heart disease and suggest that efforts should target the non-biological factors that can impact cardiovascular health, rather than solely focusing on reducing socioeconomic disparities. Efforts to address racial disparities in access to care and improve healthcare experiences for minority groups are necessary to promote better heart health for all individuals.