The new study involved about 100,000 men between age 20 and 79 who were held in North Carolina prisons at some point between 1995 and 2005. Sixty percent of those men were black,the findings were published in Annals of Epidemiology.
Researchers linked prison and state health records to determine which of the inmates died, and of what causes, during their prison stay. Then they compared those figures with expected deaths in men of the same age and race in the general population,reported Rueters.
Less than one percent of men died during incarceration, and there was no difference between black and white inmates. But outside prison walls, blacks have a higher rate of death at any given age than whites.
As in the general population, cancer and heart and blood vessel diseases were the most common cause of death among inmates -- accounting for more than half of deaths. According to Rueters, white prisoners died of cardiovascular diseases as often as expected and died of cancer slightly more often than non-prisoners.
Black inmates, by contrast, were between 30 and 40 percent less likely to die of those causes than those who weren't incarcerated. They were also less likely to die of diabetes, alcohol- and drug-related causes, airway diseases, accidents, suicide and murder than black men not in prison.
"For some populations, being in prison likely provides benefits in regards to access to healthcare and life expectancy," the study's author Dr. David Rosen, from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill told Rueters.
To read more: http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/07/14/us-prison-blacks-idUSTRE76D71920110714