Racial/Ethnic Differences in Women's Life Event Exposure Across Midlife

R. E. Koffer, R. C. Thurston, J. T. Bromberger, K. A. Matthews

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Objective: Stressful life events are associated with poorer physical, cognitive, and mental health. Examining life events trends across midlife illustrates normative experiences of stress in a critical life period for intervention and disease prevention. Further, there is a critical need for research with racially/ethnically diverse samples to identify differences in life event exposure, as they may relate to later health disparities. Method: Annual life event reports were analyzed from 3,066 White, Black, Hispanic, Chinese, and Japanese women in the Study of Women's Health Across the Nation. Across ages 43-65, longitudinal trajectories were fit to annual number of life events and 9 subcategories of life events (i.e., work problems, economic problems, partner unemployment, illness/accident of loved one, caregiving, bereavement, relationship problems, family legal/police problems, and violent events that happened to the self or family). Racial/ethnic differences were examined, controlling for education. Results: Number of annual life events declined with age and plateaued in later midlife. This pattern was largely consistent across types of life events, though family health and bereavement-related life events increased in later midlife. Compared to White women, Black women experienced more life events, while Chinese, Hispanic, and Japanese women experienced fewer life events. Racial/ethnic differences were amplified in specific subtypes of life events. Discussion: Racial/ethnic differences in exposure to life events across midlife may contribute to racial/ethnic health disparities in later life.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)272-283
Number of pages12
JournalJournals of Gerontology - Series B Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Life events and context
  • Longitudinal change
  • Minority and diverse populations

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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