Health in general varies widely among groups of people. Researchers often study how diseases and other health problems affect people differently, depending on their age, gender, race, and where they live. But the results of a recent health study by the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, which compared how well African Americans and whites fared in the emergency room, took many researchers by surprise.
What researchers already knew
Researchers already knew that African Americans admitted to hospital emergency rooms have worse outcomes than whites. Minority patients have a history of not responding and recovering as well as whites. In fact, African Americans between the ages of 16 - 64 are 20 percent more likely to die than whites.
What researchers didn't know
However, what surprised researchers was the big change they discovered took place once African Americans reached the age of 65 and older. This age group told a very different story. In this age group, the older African Americans were 20 percent more likely than whites to survive.
Further research uncovered three potential reasons why the tables seem to turn as African Americans get older.
- As African Americans get older, most of the injuries that lead them to the ER are from falls and traffic accidents, not the more serious gunshot and stab wounds that younger patients are treated for in the ER.
- More than 99 percent of older African Americans have health insurance like Medicaid. Having insurance results in more older Blacks using health care services.
- African Americans have higher health risks than whites throughout their lives, which leads researchers to believe that as African Americans get older, they get tougher than their white counterparts and develop a stronger sense of survival.