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The Weathering Hypothesis as an Explanation for Racial Disparities in Health: A Systematic Review

June 6, 2019

In the United States, Blacks have higher rates of morbidity and mortality for almost all physical health outcomes compared to Whites. There are many theories about what underpins these patterns; the weathering hypothesis is one such theory. This hypothesis posits that cumulative exposure to disadvantage, including social, economic and neighborhood disadvantage over the lifetime, leads to earlier onset of disease and worse health outcomes for disadvantaged compared to advantaged populations of comparable age.

A systematic review, led by Allana T. Forde, PhD, MPH and co-authored by Danielle M. Crookes, MPH, Shakira F. Suglia, ScD, and Ryan T. Demmer, PhD was published in Annals of Epidemiology earlier this month. ‘The Weathering Hypothesis as an Explanation for Racial Disparities in Health: A Systematic Review’, sought to identify and synthesize the evidence base concerning the weathering hypothesis. The review identified 41 studies that tested the hypothesis. Most studies were conducted in the United States and focused on a variety of physical health outcomes. Based on the observations of these studies, the review found overall support for the weathering hypothesis as an explanation for the health disparities in birth and non-birth outcomes among disadvantaged and advantaged populations.