Study Links Discrimination, Blacks’ Risk of Mental Disorders - Higher Education
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Study Links Discrimination, Blacks’ Risk of Mental Disorders

by Catherine Morris

Mental DisordersNew research shows that African Americans and Caribbean Blacks who experience multiple types of discrimination are at a much greater risk for a variety of mental disorders, such as anxiety, depression and substance abuse. The same study, published in the August 2014 edition of Addictive Behaviors, also suggests that there are four main types of discrimination, which, experienced in concert, place adults at a high risk for mental health problems.

“This is the first study to examine whether classes of everyday discrimination is associated with mood and substance-use disorders among African Americans and Caribbean Blacks,” Dr. Trenette Clark of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, lead author of the study, wrote in an e-mail.

The four types of discrimination that the study identified are disrespectful, condescending, character-based, and hostile discrimination. The findings are based on a sample of 4,462 African American and Caribbean Blacks between 18 and 65 years of age.

Though 83 percent of respondents reported experiencing some form of discrimination in the past year, the effects of discrimination worsen on a sort of sliding scale. The more frequently an individual reported experiencing all forms of discrimination, the more likely that individual was to also report mental health issues and other disorders.

Half of respondents reported recurrent discrimination of all types, and 14.7 percent of respondents reported frequent discrimination of all types. These two groups were significantly more likely to report mental health issues and other disorders than other groups.

“It (also) seems that character-based and hostile discrimination may be more important in explaining the prevalence of mental health and substance use disorders among African Americans and Caribbean Blacks than disrespectful and condescending discrimination,” Clark wrote.

The study did not divide respondents into demographic or socioeconomic groups.

Clark noted that the individual response to environmental stressors is not monolithic. “While some people may withdraw or dwell on the stressor which could lead to depressive symptoms and substance use, others deal with stressors in healthy and effective ways,” she wrote. “For many African Americans and Caribbean Blacks, spirituality and ethnic identity are helpful and may buffer against the negative effects of everyday discrimination as well as racism and other stressors.”

Catherine Morris can be reached at cmorris@diverseeducation.com

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