Discrimination and Hypertension Among Older African Americans and Caribbean Blacks: The Moderating Effects of John Henryism



Discrimination is a major contributor to health disparities between Black and White older adults. Although the health effects of discrimination are well established, less is known about factors that may intervene in the discrimination–health connection, such as coping strategies. The study aim was to determine whether John Henryism (JH; high-effort coping) moderates the association between racial discrimination and hypertension in nationally representative samples of older African Americans and Caribbean Blacks.


The analytic sample was drawn from the National Survey of American Life—Reinterview, which was conducted 2001–2003, and included African Americans (N = 546) and Caribbean Blacks (N = 141) aged 55 and older. Study variables included racial discrimination, JH, and hypertension. Logistic regressions, which controlled key sociodemographic differences, were used to test the study aim.


Among both Black ethnic groups, discrimination and JH were not associated with hypertension. For African Americans low and moderate in JH, discrimination was unrelated to hypertension; discrimination was positively associated with hypertension for African Americans high in JH. For Caribbean Blacks, discrimination was positively associated with hypertension among respondents low in JH. Among Caribbean Blacks moderate and high in JH, discrimination was not associated with hypertension.Discussion

The findings indicate that JH, in the face of discrimination, is associated with hypertension of older African Americans but may be an effective coping strategy for older Caribbean Blacks due to cultural and sociodemographic differences between the 2 ethnic groups. Future research should investigate the differing mechanisms by which JH influences health in heterogeneous older Black populations.

The full study is available in The Journals of Gerontology.