Few epidemiologic cohort studies on the etiology of chronic disease are powerful enough to distinguish racial and ethnic determinants from socioeconomic determinants of health behaviors and observed disease patterns. The Adventist Health Study-2 (AHS-2), with its large number of respondents and the variation in lifestyles of its target populations, promises to shed light on these issues. This paper focuses on some preliminary baseline analyses of responses from the first group of participants recruited for AHS-2.
We administered a validated and pilot-tested questionnaire on various lifestyle practices and health outcomes to 56,754 respondents to AHS-2, comprising 14,376 non-Hispanic blacks and 42,378 non-Hispanic whites. We analyzed cross-sectional baseline data adjusted for age and sex and performed logistic regressions to test differences between responses from the two racial groups.
In this Seventh-day Adventist (Adventist) cohort, blacks were less likely than whites to be lifelong vegetarians and more likely to be overweight or obese. Exercise levels were lower for blacks than for whites, but blacks were as likely as whites not to currently smoke or drink. Blacks reported higher rates of hypertension and diabetes than did whites but lower rates of high serum cholesterol, myocardial infarction, emphysema, and all cancers. After we eliminated skin cancer from the analysis, the age-adjusted prevalence of cancer remained significantly lower for black than for white women. The prevalence of prostate cancer was 47% higher for black men than for white men.
The profile of health habits for black Adventists is better than that for blacks nationally. Given the intractable nature of many other contributors to health disparities, including racism, housing segregation, employment discrimination, limited educational opportunity, and poorer health care, the relative advantage for blacks of the Adventist lifestyle may hold promise for helping to close the gap in health status between blacks and whites nationally.