This study aimed to examine within-race interactions of multiple dimensions of self-reported discrimination with depressive symptoms in relation to carotid intimal-medial thickness (IMT), a subclinical marker of atherosclerosis prospectively implicated in stroke incidence, in middle-aged to older African American and white adults.
Participants were a socioeconomically diverse group of 1941 African Americans (56.5%) and whites from the Healthy Aging in Neighborhoods of Diversity across the Life Span study (30–64 years old, 47% men, 45.2% with household income <125% federal poverty threshold) who underwent carotid IMT measurement. Discrimination was assessed across four dimensions (everyday, frequency across various social statuses, racial, and lifetime burden). The Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression scale was used to assess depressive symptoms.
In cross-sectional hierarchical regression analyses, two interactions were observed in African Americans: more frequent discrimination across various social statuses (b < 0.001, p = .006) and a higher lifetime discrimination burden (b < 0.001, p = .02) were each related to thicker carotid IMT in those with greater depressive symptoms. No significant findings were observed within whites.
Among African Americans, those reporting high levels of discrimination and depressive symptoms have increased carotid atherosclerosis and may be at greater risk for clinical end points compared with those reporting one or neither of these risk factors. Findings suggest that assessment of interactive relationships among social and psychological factors may elucidate novel pathways for cardiovascular disease, including stroke, among African Americans.