Everyday Discrimination Impacts Mental Health

By | September 15, 2014

Researchers have determined that African Americans and Caribbean blacks who experience discrimination of multiple types are at substantially greater risk for a variety of mental disorders including anxiety, depression and substance abuse.

The research — co-authored by professor Christopher Salas-Wright at The University of Texas at Austin’s School of Social Work and published in the August 2014 edition of Addictive Behaviors — suggests that experiences of discrimination in the form of disrespect and condescension do not alone appear to increase risk for most mental disorders. However, hostile and character-based discrimination in combination with disrespect and condescension does seem to place African American and Caribbean black adults at considerable risk for mental health problems.

“When it comes to mental health, our results suggest that the type and frequency of discrimination matters,” Salas-Wright said. “It seems that it is the ongoing experience of multiple types of discrimination, including disrespect, condescension, hostile and character-based discrimination, which negatively impacts mental health.”

The study was co-authored with Trenette Clark (lead author) from the School of Social Work at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; Michael G. Vaughn of the College for Public Health and Social Justice at Saint Louis University; and Keith E. Whitfield of the Center for Biobehavioral Health Disparities Research at Duke University.

“Perceived discrimination is an often overlooked but major source of health-related stress, with effects comparable to other major stressors such as the death of a loved one or the loss of a job,” Clark said. “Our study shows that the risk for mental health and behavioral disorders varies according to the types and frequency of discriminatory experiences.” (University of Texas – Austin)

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