Recession Took Toll on Health of Rural Young Blacks

Recession Took Toll on Health of Rural Young Blacks

The Great Recession of 2007-2009 may have hit black American teens in poor rural communities particularly hard, a new study suggests.

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What the researchers discovered was that these young people now appear to be at increased risk for heart disease and diabetes.

The recession was the largest in the United States since the Great Depression in the 1930s, the study authors noted. And many in rural black communities in the Southeast have yet to recover lost jobs, social services and wealth, the researchers explained.

This study included 328 black participants, aged 25 to 26. During the recession, they were 16 and 17, and lived in nine rural counties in Georgia with high poverty rates and high heart disease death rates.

The investigators examined rates of metabolic syndrome, a group of risk factors for heart disease and diabetes. Those risk factors include a large waistline, high blood fat levels, low levels of "good" (HDL) cholesterol, high blood pressure and high blood sugar when fasting.

At ages 25 to 26, rates of diagnosed metabolic syndrome were just over 10 percent among participants whose family incomes were low but stable during the recession, nearly 22 percent among those whose family incomes were low and dropped even more during the recession, and 27.5 percent among those whose families already lived in poverty and became deeply impoverished during the recession.

The study was published Sept. 6 in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

"In previous studies, heart attack and stroke rates have gone up in older adults during economic downturns, particularly when the labor market is bad," said study author Gregory Miller. He is a faculty fellow at the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University, in Chicago.

"But few, if any, studies have looked at how these same economic forces affect cardiovascular risk in younger people," Miller said in a journal news release.

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The study did not examine why rates of metabolic syndrome were higher in some groups than others, but the authors suggested that the worse a family's financial situation became during the recession, the less likely teens in those families were to have a healthy diet and to exercise. They might also have had higher levels of stress. However, while the study found an association, it did not prove that the recession caused these health risks to rise.

More information

The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more on metabolic syndrome.


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