Uzogara, Ekeoma E. (2019). Dark and sick, light and healthy: black women's complexion-based health disparities. Ethnicity & Health.
vol. 24 (2) pp. 125-146
OBJECTIVE: Although research on skin tone inequalities suggest that darker-skinned Black women should experience worse health outcomes than lighter-skinned women, findings have been mixed. The present study investigates the possibility that the manner that stress and health are measured (i.e. global versus count measures) may explain the conflicting findings. DESIGN: Black American women of different skin tones were investigated in two cross-sectional samples: the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (N = 571) and the Detroit Area Study (N = 290). Women's skin tone health disparities were examined using both objective (i.e. directly measured) or count measures (i.e. number of diagnosed chronic health conditions) as well as a global measure of health (i.e. self-rated health - SRH). Additionally, in the Detroit Area Study (DAS), disparities in stress exposure were examined using count and global measures. RESULTS: Skin tone did not predict global measures of health (i.e. SRH) in both samples. In contrast, skin tone predicted objective and count measures of health in both samples, and the disparities between dark- and light-skinned women were starker among higher SES populations. Furthermore, DAS analyses of stress measures indicated that skin tone did not predict a global measure of stress but significantly predicted a count measure of stress (i.e. life events) since dark-skinned women reported worse outcomes. CONCLUSIONS: Health disparities research will benefit from accounting for Black women's skin tones as an important social determinant of health. Additionally, use of subjective measurements of health (e.g. SRH) may conceal within-race health disparities across complexions as well as obscure the magnitude of disparities across race.
Skin tone objective health self-rated health stress within-race health disparities
Ethnicity & Health
Uzogara, Ekeoma E.
April 11, 2017