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Sunday, June 16, 2024

Family could be taking a toll on the health of African Americans

Having lots of family members in social circles may be harming the health of African Americans, UF researchers show.

African Americans with larger families who have to provide emotional and financial support have higher blood pressure than any other racial group, said Kia Fuller, a 27-year-old UF doctoral genetics and genomics student.

“The relationship between family members and health is more complex than we originally thought,” Fuller said. 

Fuller, who led the study, worked with 138 African Americans in Tallahassee because she was inspired by another UF professor’s work in the area, she said. She worked with African Americans because they have high rates of hypertension. 

“Having more family members results in more stress on the individual because they’re expected to provide emotional support and financial resources, which causes negative health impacts that aren’t balanced out by having family members to support you,” she said. 

The study consisted of two interviews and a collection of information including blood pressure, income, stress level and memories of discrimination, she said.

This study may help explain more about racial disparities, said Connie Mulligan, a UF anthropology and UF Genetics Institute professor. Nobody else is looking at how family affects health, she said. 

“I don’t think people are looking in the right places to understand racial disparities in health,” she said. “We are looking for a reason to explain issues in the non-majority population.” 

Correction: This story has been updated to reflect that having more family members, rather than friends or co-workers, in the social circles of African Americans is associated with high blood pressure. Having a large family does not affect the health or blood pressure of African Americans. The Alligator regrets this error.  

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