The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Does chronic stress related to police discrimination affect biological aging among African Americans?

Pachucki Team Photo

The goal of this project is to assess how chronic stress related to the criminal justice system is associated with cellular aging. Chronic stress is a critical social determinant of racial and ethnic disparities in morbidity and mortality. Yet, the social and biological pathways through which chronic stress relating to the criminal justice system contributes to later-life health risks have not yet been well-characterized. Despite the amount of work suggesting chronic stress is a key mechanism linking aggressive policing to health, little work has examined evidence of this relationship at the cellular level, in line with epigenomic research that suggests certain social determinants of health can get “under the skin”. In partnership with investigators at Tulane University and Emory University, Graduate students Richard Carbonaro (sociology) and Nicole Fields (biostatistics & epidemiology); and, from left above Mark Pachucki (sociology) and Nicole VanKim (biostatistics & epidemiology) will use data from Waves 1-3 of the Black Women’s Experiences Living with Lupus (BeWell) to examine the prospective association between reports of police discrimination and telomere attrition. By illuminating the biological ramifications of police discrimination, this project will provide further evidence for the need for police reform and inform health interventions in Black communities.