A new study lead by Cynthia Colen, an associate professor of sociology at Ohio State University, found that African Americans who attend historically Black colleges or universities may be at lower risk for health problems later in adulthood compared to African Americans who attend predominantly White institutions.
The research showed that Black adults who had enrolled in HBCUs had a 35 percent lower probability of developing metabolic syndrome by midlife compared to Black adults who enrolled in predominantly White schools. Metabolic syndrome is defined as the presence of at least three of five factors that increase the risk for heart disease, diabetes, and stroke – excess belly fat, elevated blood pressure, low “good” cholesterol, and high levels of blood glucose and triglycerides.
The analysis showed that 31 percent of the Black respondents who had attended predominantly White institutions had metabolic syndrome by midlife, compared to 23 percent of those who had attended HBCUs. The researchers noted that this kind of health benefit mirrors the risk reduction that scientific studies suggest people can achieve through change in diet or exercise.
The authors speculate that the reason Blacks who attend HBCUs are healthier later in life may be the result of the fact that they are less likely to be chronically exposed to the racial discrimination that has been shown to erode both mental and physical health years after people first encounter this type of unfair treatment.
The full study, “Racial Disparities in Health Among College-Educated African-Americans: Can HBCU Attendance Reduce the Risk of Metabolic Syndrome in Midlife?” was published on the website of the American Journal of Epidemiology. It may be accessed here.