Friday, December 17, 2021

African Americans who spent time in prison experience accelerated aging, according to a new study led by University of Iowa criminologists.

In the study, the researchers analyzed data from 410 African American adults who were surveyed over a number of years. The results show that those who had been incarcerated were, on average, nearly a year older biologically than their calendar age. African American respondents who experienced violence while in prison were biologically more than two years  older than their calendar age, the study shows.

“Epigenetic aging may be a pathway through which incarceration leaves individuals vulnerable to poor health,” the researchers write in a policy brief describing the study. “Policymakers should consider incarceration as a potential source of population health inequalities.”

The study is titled, “Losing Years Doing Time: Incarceration Exposure and Accelerated Biological Aging among African American Adults.” It was published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, published by the American Sociological Association.

Mark Berg, professor in the Department of Sociology and Criminology and director of the Crime and Justice Policy Research Program at Iowa, is the study’s corresponding author. Contributing authors include Ethan Rogers, assistant research scientist at Iowa; and Man-Kit Lei and Ronald Simons, from the University of Georgia.

Listen to a podcast in which Berg explains the study: