We drew on fundamental cause theory and the weathering hypothesis to examine how discrimination influences aging for midlife and older adults in Canada.
Using nationally representative data, we assessed the associations between discrimination and pain and functional limitations among adults 45 years of age and older. Discrimination was measured using a modified version of the Everyday Discrimination Scale. Chi-square tests were performed to check for baseline differences in the dependent and key predictor variables by race. Logistic regression was used to estimate the associations of discrimination, race, and sense of belonging with pain and functional limitations, net of sociodemographic characteristics and SES.
Indigenous respondents showed a clear health disadvantage, with higher rates of pain and functional limitations compared to Whites and Asians. Self-reported discrimination was also higher for Indigenous midlife and older adults than for their White and Asian age counterparts. Discrimination had a direct and robust association with pain (OR 1.56, 95% CI 1.31, 1.87) and functional limitations (OR 1.55, 95% CI 1.29, 1.87). However, race moderated the impact of discrimination on functional limitations for Blacks. Finally, a strong sense of belonging to one’s local community was protective against pain and functional limitations for all racial groups.
Future research needs to further examine the impact of discrimination on Indigenous peoples’ aging process. High rates of discrimination coupled with a greater burden of pain means that Indigenous midlife and older adults may require additional and targeted health and social service resources to age successfully.