Study - Black HBCU Students at Lower Risk of Long-Term Health Problems Than Those Attending Predominantly White Institutions

A new study from researchers at Ohio State University suggests that Black students who attend historically Black colleges and universities are statistically less likely to develop health problems than Black students who attend predominantly white institutions (PWIs). 

The study, conducted by faculty, postdoctoral and graduate students at the university and published last week in the American Journal of Epidemiology, says that Black students are at reduced risk of developing metabolic syndrome, or factors that increase the probability of heart disease, diabetes, and other diseases. 

“We’ve known for a very long time that the more years of completed schooling someone has, the better their health is likely to be across the life course, but there’s been very little research looking at the different contexts in which education occurs and their impact on subsequent health outcomes,” said Cynthia Colen, lead author of the study and associate professor of sociology at The Ohio State University. “This study really points to a strength of HBCUs that people don’t normally think about: Not only can they be health protective, but they can be health protective for years to come, not just while people are in school.” 

The study surveyed 727 students from 273 PWIs and 46 Black colleges. Data reveals that 31% of the respondents who had attended predominantly white institutions had metabolic syndrome by midlife, compared to 23% of those who had attended HBCUs. HBCU attendance was associated with a 35% reduction in the odds of having metabolic syndrome among college-educated African Americans. 

“Our findings suggest that HBCUs are likely to be health protective for the segment of society who needs it most – those growing up in the most racially isolated environments,” the researchers noted. “Moreover, this finding underscores the important role that place, in general, and segregation, specifically, plays in the unequal distribution of health.”