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New Data Suggests Families of The Incarcerated Have Shorter Life Expectancies and Poorer Health

Updated: Jan 19, 2022

A recent study from a team of researchers from the University of California, University of Massachusetts, Yale School of Medicine, University of Cincinnati, Duke University, and Washington University, revealed that incarceration is not only detrimental to the health of those within the prison walls but their families as well (nationally, an estimated 45% of people have an immediate family member who has been incarcerated and 35% of people have an extended family member with a history of incarceration). Utilizing a nationally representative sample from the 2018 Family History of Incarceration Survey (2,815 individual responses), the researchers examined how experiences of family member incarceration were associated with a holistic measure of well-being, including physical, mental, social, financial, and spiritual domains. They compared life expectancy to the varying levels of exposure to immediate and extended family member incarceration and employed logistic regression models to adjust for individual and household characteristics.

The researchers found that people with incarcerated loved ones have shorter life expectancies and poorer health. Their report, titled “Exposure to Family Member Incarceration and Adult Well-Being in the United States”, states that people who have an incarcerated or formerly incarcerated family member consistently rate their health and well-being lower than those without a family history of incarceration, and report more health problems, more sick days, more negative emotions (worry, stress, sadness, anger) and fewer positive emotions (enjoyment, interest, happiness, and respect). People with at least one incarcerated or formerly incarcerated family member have an estimated 2.6 years shorter life expectancy than those with no incarcerated family members, and people with more than 3 immediate family members with incarceration histories have an estimated 4.6 years shorter life expectancy. This effect was significant even when controlling for demographic characteristics like race, household income, gender, and age.

Read the full study at Exposure to Family Member Incarceration and Adult Well-being in the United States | Health Disparities | JAMA Network Open | JAMA Network

Researched by Crystal Poole, NC-CURE Intern

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