Javascript is not enabled.

Javascript must be enabled to use this site. Please enable Javascript in your browser and try again.

Skip to content
Content starts here
Leaving Website

You are now leaving and going to a website that is not operated by AARP. A different privacy policy and terms of service will apply.

Do Older Patients Face Care Discrimination?

About 1 in 5 with chronic illnesses say they have

spinner image Doctor holding a clock
A large fraction of patients will have experienced some form of discrimination in a health care setting, according to a recent study.
Peter Dazeley/Getty Images

About 1 in 5 older patients with a chronic disease feel they have been discriminated against in their care, according to a multiyear analysis involving nearly 14,000 people 54 or older.

The analysis, by researchers at three California universities, did show a drop in discrimination reported by African American patients for the period between 2008 and 2014. The analysis was published in the December issue of the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

spinner image Image Alt Attribute

AARP Membership— $12 for your first year when you sign up for Automatic Renewal

Get instant access to members-only products and hundreds of discounts, a free second membership, and a subscription to AARP the Magazine.

Join Now

Race, ancestry, gender, age, religion, physical disability, sexual orientation, financial status and weight or physical appearance all were taken into account as potential discrimination points in the analysis.

In 2008, 27 percent of black patients in the analysis reported experiencing discrimination; by 2014, that had dropped to 20 percent. The proportion of white patients who perceived discrimination against them was unchanged at 17 percent. The analysis indicated no clear trend for Hispanics during the period, the authors stated, with people saying they felt discrimination at about the same rate as non-Hispanic whites.

Blacks listed race as the most likely reason they felt they were discriminated against, while whites and Hispanics listed their age as the top cause.

Researchers said the analysis did not give a clear explanation for the reduction among black patients. However, they did note that the drop came in parallel with an increased emphasis by medical schools on implicit bias training. The training is designed to teach professionals to recognize unconscious discrimination.

“Providers should be aware that a large fraction of patients will have experienced some form of discrimination in a health care setting,” Amani Nuru-Jeter, senior author of the study and an associate professor at the University of California-Berkeley, said in a statement. “Just by recognizing how common these experiences are for patients, clinicians may be able to offer better care.”

The analysis used data gathered by the University of Michigan's biannual Health and Retirement Study. It analyzed people who had taken the survey, were 54 or older and had diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, stroke, lung disease and/or cancer.

Discover AARP Members Only Access

Join AARP to Continue

Already a Member?