COMPARATIVE STUDY
JOURNAL ARTICLE

Racial/ethnic disparities in exercise and dietary behaviors of middle-aged and older adults

Kristin J August, Dara H Sorkin
Journal of General Internal Medicine 2011, 26 (3): 245-50
20865342

BACKGROUND: Differences in health behaviors may be important contributors to racial/ethnic disparities in the health status of adults. Studies to date have not compared whether there are health behavior differences in exercise and dietary behaviors among middle-age and older adults in the four largest racial/ethnic categories.

OBJECTIVE: To investigate racial/ethnic differences in exercise and dietary behaviors of middle-aged and older adults.

DESIGN: We used data from the 2007 California Health Interview Survey. Multivariable logistic regression was used to examine interactions between age and race/ethnicity in predicting two categories of health behaviors. Analyses were conducted adjusting for sociodemographic characteristics, health insurance status, and healthcare utilization.

PARTICIPANTS: A population-based sample of 33,189 California adults 45 years old and older: 26,522 non-Hispanic whites, 1,686 African American/blacks, 2,565 Asian/Pacific Islanders (1,741 English-proficient; 824 limited English-proficient), and 2,416 Latinos (1,538 English-proficient; 878 limited English-proficient).

MAIN MEASURES: Self-report leisure-time physical activity (moderate and vigorous) and daily consumption of fruits and vegetables.

KEY RESULTS: Racial/ethnic minorities generally engaged in less healthy exercise and dietary behaviors than whites, with differences more pronounced in middle adulthood. The disparities were the greatest among English-proficient minorities. Specifically, among middle-aged respondents, all racial/ethnic minorities engaged in less vigorous physical activity than whites (ORs range = 0.28 to 0.73; 95% CI range = 0.16-1.00). Additionally, middle-aged, English-proficient minorities engaged in less moderate physical activity compared to whites (ORs range =0.57 to 0.67; 95% CI range = 0.45-0.79). Furthermore, middle-aged, English-proficient Latinos had a poorer diet than whites (OR = 0.54; 0.39-0.75). Few significant racial/ethnic differences emerged in the exercise and dietary behaviors of older adults.

CONCLUSIONS: Racial/ethnic disparities in exercise and dietary behaviors are most notable among middle-aged, acculturated minorities. Results highlight the need to promote positive exercise and dietary behaviors during critical preventive ages, when racial/ethnic disparities are large and the potential to prevent chronic disease is great.

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