Within the United States, those who have the privilege of pursuing higher education typically lead healthier lifestyles, have access to better healthcare and enjoy a longer life expectancy. However, this trend does not apply to Black men. A recent analysis from NPR found that Black men who have pursued higher education do not experience the same increase in life expectancy that other groups do.
In 2012, Health Affairs examined the life expectancy within different demographics pertaining to education levels. The study found that white men with the "most education" lived approximately 13 years longer than white men with the "least education." In comparison, Black men with the "most education" lived nine years longer than Black men with the "least education."
S. Jay Olshansky worked as the lead author for the 2012 study. In explaining the results, he pointed toward underlying diseases as a potential reason for shorter life expectancies among Black men regardless of education levels.
"I'd be very surprised if this wasn't part of the equation," he said.
"The risk of diabetes and obesity is much higher among the Black population, even those that are highly educated."
Black communities often suffer from higher rates of diabetes, heart disease and cancer than other demographics. Even when attempting to account for these differences, researchers still found the Black with men higher levels of education still experience a shorter life expectancy.
In 2019, the American Sociological Association examined the difference in years of "lost life" or years cut off because of health challenges between groups with similar levels of education. The study found that "educated" Black men lost 12 years of life while "educated" white men lost approximately eight years of life.
"No matter how far you go in school, no matter what you accomplish, you're still a Black man," Derek Novacek of UCLA said.
Regardless of education levels, environments, underlying diseases racism and other variables, racism continues to contribute to lower life expectancy among Black men. Thomas LeVeist of Tulane University explains that Black men typically come into a white-dominated educational environment without as much accumulated capital as their white classmates. Thus, it becomes harder to break into new educational and professional environments. Once these Black men break into certain environments, they may feel isolated as one of only a few Black men in the environment. Furthermore, it may be harder to find a professional mentor or support system that understands their experience. These factors can contribute to stress, anxiety and a feeling of isolation.
"When you follow other groups with more education, depression declines. But when you look at Black men — guess what? Depression goes up," Dr. Shervin Assari of Charles R. Drew University explained.
"Your high socioeconomic status doesn't protect you from the impact or from the incidence," Dr. Adrian Tyndall at the University of Florida added.
"If I were to walk out of this institution and into the community, where people don't know me, I could be called the N-word. And yeah, that's pretty depressing."
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