Interpersonal and Structural Social Isolation among African American and Black Caribbean Men

Main Article Content

Harry Owen Taylor
Robert Joseph Taylor


Social relationships are important for promoting health and well-being in men and confer many benefits that help prevent the onset and mitigate adverse impacts of disease and disability. Social isolation, or the absence of social relationships, is associated with a wide range of negative health outcomes; however, most studies of social isolation have been conducted among predominantly White samples. As a consequence, we know very little about social isolation among Black men. Using an intersectionality framework, this study examines the prevalence and correlates of social isolation among men who identify as African American
or Black Caribbean.
Data come from the National Survey of American Life (NSAL), a nationally representative sample of
African Americans, Black Caribbeans, and Whites living in the United States. The current study focuses on men who identified as African American or Black Caribbean. Further, within this sample, we distinguish by ethnicity and nativity in examining Black men who are African American (native to the U.S.), U.S.-born Black Caribbean men, and foreign-born Black Caribbean men. Social isolation was operationalized using two constructs: interpersonal isolation and structural isolation. The analyses adjusted for age, education, income, marital status, and region. We conducted a series of Poisson regressions to determine: (1) ethnic differences in interpersonal and structural social isolation and (2) ethnic-specific correlates of interpersonal and structural social isolation among Black men. All analyses accounted for the complex study design of the NSAL.
There were no significant ethnic differences among Black men for interpersonal isolation. However, U.S. born Black Caribbean men had higher rates of structural social isolation compared to African American men and foreign-born Black Caribbean men. There were very few differences in the correlates of interpersonal isolation among Black men regardless of ethnicity. However, in terms of structural isolation, African American men had more significant correlates in comparison to U.S. born Black Caribbean men and foreign-born Black Caribbean men.

Article Details

Author Biographies

Harry Owen Taylor, The Center for the Study of Aging and Human Development, Duke University

Postdoctoral Scholar, The Center for the Study of Aging and Human Development, Duke University

Robert Joseph Taylor, University of Michigan

Professor of Social Work and Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan


1. Pantell M, Rehkopf D, Jutte D, Syme SL, Balmes J, Adler N. Social isolation: A predictor of mortality comparable to traditional clinical risk factors. Am J Public Health 2013;103(11):2056–62. doi:10.2105/ AJPH.2013.301261
2. Yang YC, McClintock MK, Kozloski M, Li T. Social isolation and adult mortality: the role of chronic inflammation and sex differences. J Heal Soc Behav 2013;54(2):183–203. doi:10.1177/0022146513485244
3. Steptoe A, Shankar A, Demakakos P, Wardle J. Social isolation, loneliness, and all-cause mortality in older men and women. Proc Natl Acad Sci 2013;110(15):5797–801. doi:10.1073/pnas.1219686110
4. Cornwell EY, Waite LJ. Social Disconnectedness, Perceived isolation, and health among older adults. J Heal Soc Behav 2009;50(1):31–48. doi:10.1177/002214650905000103
5. Coyle CE, Dugan E. Social Isolation, Loneliness and health among older adults. J Aging Heal 2012;24(8):1346–63. doi:10.1177/0898264312460275
6. Taylor HO, Taylor RJ, Nguyen AW, Chatters L. Social isolation, depression, and psychological distress among older adults. J Aging Health 2018;30(2):229–246. doi:10.1177/0898264316673511
7. Nguyen AW, Taylor RJ, Taylor HO, Chatters LM. Objective and subjective social isolation and psychiatric disorders among African Americans. Clin Soc Work J 2020;48(1):87–98. doi:10.1007/s10615-019-00725-z
8. Bryant S, Rakowski W. Predictors of mortality among elderly African-Americans. Res Aging 1992;14(1):50–67. doi:10.1177/0164027592141003
9. Shankar A, Hamer M, McMunn A, Steptoe A. Social isolation and loneliness: relationships with cognitive function during 4 years of follow-up in the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing. Psychosom Med 2013;75(2). http://journals. Social_Isolation_and_Loneliness___Relationships.9.aspx.
10. Zunzunegui M-V, Alvarado BE, Del Ser T, Otero A. Social networks, social integration, and social engagement determine cognitive decline in community-dwelling spanish older adults. Journals Gerontol Ser B 2003;58(2):S93–S100. geronb/58.2.S93.
11. Holt-Lunstad J, Smith TB, Layton JB. Social relation-ships and mortality risk: a meta-analytic review. Public Libr Sci Med 2010;7.
12. Taylor HO, Taylor RJ. Social isolation, loneliness, and health among older men. Annu Rev Gerontol Geriatr 2018;39(1):107–24.
13. Acosta YD, Patricia de la Cruz G. The foreign born from Latin America and the Caribbean: 2010. American Community Survey Briefs/10–15. 2011.
14. Anderson M, Lopez G. Key Facts about Black Immigrants in the U.S. Available at: fact-tank/2018/01/24/key-facts-about-black-immigrants-in-the-u-s/. Published 2018. Accessed May 29, 2020.
15. Vickerman M. Crosscurrents: West Indian Immigrants and Race. Oxford University Press; 1999.
16. Foner N. In a New Land: A Comparative View of Immigration. New York: NYU Press; 2005.
17. Lincoln KD, Taylor RJ, Chatters LM. Correlates of emotional support and negative interaction among African Americans and Caribbean Blacks. J Fam Issues 2013;34(9):1262–90. doi:10.1177/0192513X12454655
18. Williams DR, González HM, Neighbors H, et al. Prevalence and distribution of major depressive disorder in African Americans, Caribbean Blacks, and Non-Hispanic Whites: Results from the National Survey of American Life. Arch Gen Psychiatry 2007;64(3):305–315. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.64.3.305
19. Joe S, Baser RE, Breeden G, Neighbors HW, Jackson JS. Prevalence of and risk factors for lifetime suicide attempts Among Blacks in the United States. JAMA 2006;296(17):2112–23. doi:10.1001/jama.296.17.2112
20. Cudjoe TKM, Roth DL, Szanton SL, Wolff JL, Boyd CM, Thorpe Roland J J. The epidemiology of social isolation: National Health and Aging Trends Study. J Gerontol Ser B March 2018:gby037-gby037. http://
21. Pohl JS, Cochrane BB, Schepp KG, Woods NF. Measuring social isolation in the National Health and Aging Trends Study. Res Gerontol Nurs 2017;10(6):277–87. doi:10.3928/19404921-20171002-01
22. Taylor RJ, Chatters LM, Taylor HO. Race and objective social isolation: older African Americans, Black Carib-beans, and Non-Hispanic Whites. Journals Gerontol Ser B 2019;74(8):1429–40. geronb/gby114.
23. Antonucci TC, Akiyama H. An examination of sex differences in social support among older men and women. Sex Roles 1987;17(11):737–49. doi:10.1007/ BF00287685
24. Cornwell B, Laumann EO, Schumm LP. The social connectedness of older adults: a national profile. Am Sociol Rev 2008;73(2):185–203. doi:10.1177/000312240807300201
25. Chatters LM, Taylor HO, Nicklett EJ, Taylor RJ. Correlates of objective social isolation from family and friends among older adults. Healthcare 2018;6(1). doi:10.3390/healthcare6010024
26. Taylor RJ, Taylor HO, Chatters LM. Social isolation from extended family members and friends among African Americans: Findings from a national survey. J Fam Soc Work 2016;19(5):443–61. doi:10.1080/105 22158.2016.1181127
27. Taylor RJ, Hernandez E, Nicklett EJ, Taylor HO, Chatters LM. Informal Social Support Networks of African American, Latino, Asian American, and Native American Older Adults. In: Whitfield K, Baker T, eds. Handbook of Minority Aging. New York: Springer Publishing Company; 2013:417–34. doi:10.1891/9780826109644.0026
28. Crenshaw K. Demarginalizing the intersection of race and sex: A black feminist critique of antidiscrimination doctrine, feminist theory and antiracist politics. u Chi Leg f 1989:139.
29. Else-Quest NM, Hyde JS. Intersectionality in quantitative psychological research: I. Theoretical and epistemological issues. Psychol Women Q 2016;40(2):155–70. doi:10.1177/0361684316629797
30. Griffith DM, Metzl JM, Gunter K. Considering intersections of race and gender in interventions that address US men’s health disparities. Public Health 2011;125(7):417–423. doi: puhe.2011.04.014
31. Griffith DM. An intersectional approach to Men’s Health. J Mens Health. 2012;9(2):106–12. doi:10.1016/j. jomh.2012.03.003
32. Brown TH, Hargrove TW. Psychosocial mechanisms underlying older Black men’s health. J Gerontol Ser B 2018;73(2):188–97. doi:10.1093/geronb/gbx091
33. Warner DF, Brown TH. Understanding how race/ ethnicity and gender define age-trajectories of dis-ability: An intersectionality approach. Soc Sci Med 2011;72(8):1236–48. doi: socscimed.2011.02.034
34. Berkman LF, Syme SL. Social networks, host resistance, and mortality: A nine-year follow-up study of Alameda County residents. Am J Epidemiol 1979;109(2):186–204.
35. Cornwell EY, Waite LJ. Measuring social isolation among older adults using multiple indicators from the NSHAP Study. J Gerontol Ser B Psychol Sci Soc Sci 2009;64B(suppl 1):i38–i46. doi:10.1093/geronb/gbp037
36. Kennedy S, Kidd MP, McDonald JT, Biddle N. The healthy immigrant effect: patterns and evidence from four countries. J Int Migr Integr 2015;16(2):317–32. doi:10.1007/s12134-014-0340-x
37. Williams DR, Haile R, González HM, Neighbors H, Baser R, Jackson JS. The Mental Health of Black Carib-bean Immigrants: Results from the National Survey of American Life. Am J Public Health 2007;97(1):52–59. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2006.088211
38. Heeringa SG, Wagner J, Torres M, Duan N, Adams T, Berglund P. Sample designs and sampling methods for the Collaborative Psychiatric Epidemiology Studies (CPES). Int J Methods Psychiatr Res 2004;13(4):221–40. doi:10.1002/mpr.179
39. Jackson JS, Torres M, Caldwell CH, et al. The National Survey of American Life: a study of racial, ethnic and cultural influences on mental disorders and mental health. Int J Methods Psychiatr Res 2004;13(4):196–207. doi:10.1002/mpr.177
40. Krause N. Exploring the stress-buffering effects of church-based and secular social support on self-rated health in late life. J Gerontol Ser B 2006;61(1):S35–S43. doi:10.1093/geronb/61.1.S35
41. Krause N. Assessing supportive social exchanges inside and outside religious institutions: exploring variations among Whites, Hispanics, and Blacks. Soc Indic Res. 2016;128(1):131–46. doi:10.1007/s11205-015-1022-6
42. Shankar A, McMunn A, Banks J, Steptoe A. Loneliness, social isolation, and behavioral and biological health indicators in older adults. Heal Psychol 2011;30(4):377–85. doi:10.1037/a0022826
43. Antonucci TC, Akiyama H. Social networks in adult life and a preliminary examination of the Convoy Model. J Gerontol 1987;42(5):519–27. doi:10.1093/ geronj/42.5.519
44. Taylor RJ, Chatters LM, Brown RK. African American religious participation. Rev Relig Res 2014;56(4):513–38. doi:10.1007/s13644-013-0144-z
45. Lincoln KD, Taylor RJ, Jackson JS. Romantic relationships among unmarried African Americans and Caribbean Blacks: Findings from the National Survey of American Life*. Fam Relat 2008;57(2):254–66. doi:10.1111/j.1741-3729.2008.00498.x
46. Argeseanu Cunningham S, Ruben JD, Venkat Narayan KM. Health of foreign-born people in the United States: A review. Health Place 2008;14(4):623–35. doi:https://
47. Taylor RJ, Nguyen AW, Sinkewicz M, Joe S, Chatters LM. Comorbid mood and anxiety disorders, suicidal behavior, and substance abuse among Black Caribbeans in the U.S.A. J African Am Stud 2013;17(4):409–25. doi:10.1007/s12111-012-9237-y
48. Clark RL, Glick JE, Bures RM. Immigrant families over the life course: research directions and needs. J Fam Issues 2009;30(6):852-872. doi:10.1177/0192513X09332162
49. Burr JA, Mutchler JE. Nativity, acculturation, and eco-nomic status: explanations of Asian American Living arrangements in later life. J Gerontol 1993;48(2):S55– S63. doi:10.1093/geronj/48.2.S55
50. Kamo Y, Zhou M. Living arrangements of elderly Chinese and Japanese in the United States. J Marriage Fam 1994:544–58.
51. Shimada K, Yamazaki S, Nakano K, Ngoma AM, Takahashi R, Yasumura S. Prevalence of social isolation in community-dwelling elderly by differences in household composition and related factors: from a social network perspective in urban Japan. J Aging Health 2014;26(5)–823. doi:10.1177/0898264314531616
52. Kearns JN, Leonard KE. Social networks, structural interdependence, and marital quality over the transition to marriage: A prospective analysis. J Fam Psychol 2004;18(2):383.
53. Assari S. Unequal gain of equal resources across racial groups. Int J Health Policy Manag 2018;7(1):1–9. doi:10.15171/ijhpm.2017.90
54. PEW Research Center. Internet/Broadband Fact Sheet. Published 2019. Accessed May 19, 2020.