Early Family Deaths Create A ‘Grief Gap’ In Black America

Black Americans tend to lose a parent, other close relatives and spouses at earlier ages than whites, creating a potentially devastating “grief gap,” new research suggests.

Studying more than 42,000 racially diverse Americans, the researchers found that death strikes black families significantly earlier than whites on average.

“Blacks were three times more likely to lose a mother, twice as likely to lose a father, and 2.5 times more likely to lose a child by age 30,” said study lead author Debra Umberson. “And they’re 90 percent more likely to experience four or more family deaths by age 60.”

The full effect is unclear, said Umberson, a professor of sociology at the University of Texas at Austin. Still, earlier research has shown that the death of a parent, child or spouse is the most stressful life event you can experience, which can lead to other stressors such as divorce or poverty, she and her colleagues noted.

“This is a tragedy, one that reverberates throughout these family networks to affect many people in ways that surely take a toll on their lives,” Umberson said.