A study has found that over the past two decades, more Black men have died from obstructive sleep apnea than white people or Black women.

The study identifies for the first time this significant racial health disparity in mortality resulting from sleep apnea. It was published online in February in Sleep Medicine.

“Despite several epidemiologic studies focusing on the prevalence, risk factors and clinical presentations of sleep apnea, no study, to our knowledge, has evaluated the disparity of sleep apnea-related mortality among different racial groups,” says Yu-Che Lee, first author and a medical resident in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at UB, who sees patients through the Catholic Health System. “We therefore brought up an idea to do the research discussing the difference of sleep apnea-related mortality and mortality trends from 1999 to 2019 between Black and white Americans.”

To conduct the study, the researchers examined sleep apnea-related mortality for the years 1999-2019 from the National Center for Health Statistics, provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Sleep apnea is the most common sleep-related breathing disorder and has been associated with development of systemic hypertension, cardiovascular morbidity and mortality, and abnormalities in glucose metabolism.

Lee and his colleagues found a steady increase in mortality from the years 1999 to 2008, but then the rates flattened for Black females and for white males and females. That flattening suggests that medical management and public health interventions have helped stabilize outcomes in these groups.

Black males were the only group that saw a continuous increase in mortality from sleep apnea for the 21 years of the study.

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