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African-American women in their mid-50s and 60s are developing physical disabilities faster and earlier on than other senior citizens, according to new research.

Researchers at Western Reserve University in Ohio looked for a link between race, ethnicity and gender and health disparities among African-Americans, whites and Mexican-Americans. Black women reported signs of decreased strength, mobility, and upper and lower body functions at an accelerated rate when compared to white or Mexican-American women in the study. After reaching their mid-60s, the rate of disabilities in Black women began to decrease. By age 75, the pace had stabilized.

The study polled 8,700 men and women between the ages of 53 and 75 about their physical changes between 1994 and 2006. Mexican-American men, African-American men, white men and white women did not show great shifts in the rate at which they developed disabilities as they aged.

Researchers could not pinpoint the reasoning for why Black women fared worse than other ethnicities and gender, but they said hardships such as lower incomes and lack of access to health care surfacing in midlife tended to follow individuals throughout their lives. Women were more impacted by these factors than men in the study.

Researchers added that the study, published in Social Science & Medicine, demonstrated the need for more research into the unique health experiences of African-American women as they age. Health advocates have long touted the benefits of regular exercise in warding off obesity and a number of chronic diseases.