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Racial Difference in the Relationship Between Health and Happiness in the United States

Authors Cobb S, Javanbakht A, Khalifeh Soltani E, Bazargan M, Assari S

Received 6 February 2020

Accepted for publication 24 March 2020

Published 25 May 2020 Volume 2020:13 Pages 481—490


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Dr Einar Thorsteinsson

Sharon Cobb,1 Arash Javanbakht,2 Ebrahim Khalifeh Soltani,3 Mohsen Bazargan,4,5 Shervin Assari4

1School of Nursing, Charles R Drew University of Medicine and Science, Los Angeles, CA, USA; 2Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI, USA; 3Department of Political Science, Eastern Michigan University, Ypsilanti, MI, USA; 4Department of Family Medicine, Charles R Drew University of Medicine and Science, Los Angeles, CA, USA; 5Department of Family Medicine, UCLA, Los Angeles, CA, USA

Correspondence: Shervin Assari Email

Background: Although health is a prerequisite for happiness, the salience of health for maintaining happiness may be diminished for Blacks when compared to Whites, a phenomenon which can be explained by the Black-White mental health paradox and minorities’ diminished returns.
Aim: To understand if Black and White adult Americans differ in the effects of self-rated health (SRH) on happiness.
Methods: This cross-sectional study used data from the General Social Survey (GSS; 1972– 2018), a nationally representative survey in the US. Our analytical sample included 42,201 Black and White adults. The independent variable was SRH. Happiness was the dependent variable. Sociodemographic factors were covariates. Race was the moderator. Logistic regression was used to analyze the data without and with interaction terms between race and SRH.
Results: Overall, good SRH was positively associated with happiness, however, there was a significant interaction between race/ethnicity and good SRH on the outcome (i.e. happiness) . This finding suggested that the boosting effect of good SRH on happiness is weaker for Black than White people.
Conclusion: In the United States, due to a weaker concordance between good health and happiness, Blacks who have poor SRH are more likely to report happiness. At the same time, Whites who are healthy report happiness, however, Blacks who are healthy do not necessarily report happiness. Disjointed link between health and happiness may be due to different racial, ethnic, and cultural perceptions of physical health and happiness as well as salience of physical health as a component of happiness. This may be an adaptive response of Blacks to sociopolitical as well as health-related adversities over centuries as a result of the combination of oppression, injustice, and poverty.

Keywords: population groups, Blacks, Whites, race/ethnicity, self-rated health, happiness

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