The Situationist

The Depressing Effects of Racial Discrimination

Posted by The Situationist Staff on June 23, 2009

apple nailsFrom Cornell News Service, here is a news release regarding fascinating research on the effects of racial discrimination.

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Many studies have shown that experiencing chronic racial discrimination chips away at the mental health of African-Americans.

But a new Cornell study sheds light on precisely how – and to what effect – chronic racial discrimination erodes mental health.

The study found blacks may, in general, have poorer mental health as a result of two mechanisms: First, chronic exposure to racial discrimination leads to more experiences of daily discrimination and, second, it also results in an accumulation of daily negative events across various domains of life, from family and friends to health and finances. The combination of these mechanisms, reports Anthony Ong, assistant professor of human development in the College of Human Ecology at Cornell, places blacks at greater risk for daily symptoms of depression, anxiety and negative moods.

“As a result, African-Americans experience high levels of chronic stress. And individuals who are exposed to more daily stress end up having fewer resources to cope with them,” said Ong.

The study, one of the first to look at the underlying mechanisms through which racial discrimination operates to affect the daily mental health of African-Americans, was conducted with Cornell graduate student Thomas Fuller-Rowell and Anthony Burrow, assistant professor of psychology at Loyola University-Chicago; it is published in the June issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (96:6).

The researchers examined the ways that chronic discrimination exerts a direct influence on daily mental health and an indirect influence through daily stress (i.e., daily racial discrimination and negative events) by analyzing daily questionnaires from 174 African-Americans for 14 days. Participants answered questions daily about the frequency of racially stressful encounters, mental health symptoms, mood and stressors across life domains.

“What we found was that it is the daily discrimination and daily stress that are driving the psychological distress,” Ong said.

The authors noted that racial discrimination in this country “is a ubiquitous experience in the lives of African-Americans,” citing various studies that reported that between half to three-quarters of black respondents report experiencing racial discrimination. They also cite a 2003 review of 32 studies that found a positive link between perceptions of racial discrimination and mental illness in all but one of the studies.

Based on the new study, Ong emphasized that the tendency for serious stressors, such as racial discrimination, to expand and generate additional stressors – a process called stress proliferation – requires that interventions cast a wide net.

“It is not enough that interventions target one problem,” Ong noted, “even if it appears to be a serious stressor, when there might be multiple hardships and demands that are instrumental in structuring people’s daily lives. Chronic exposure to racial discrimination provides a poignant illustration of the proliferation of stress stemming from repeated discriminatory experiences.”

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To read a sample of related Situationist posts, see “The Situation of Racial Health Disparities,” and “The Physical Pains of Discrimination.”

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4 Responses to “The Depressing Effects of Racial Discrimination”

  1. Kevin said

    I HATE… I hate the way goverments give to the foreigners, and give nothing to there own population…
    The Irish people kicked out aload of Romanian people, but why were these Romanians housed before the Irish homeless? Its the same in England, Where if your from Polland or India you seem to have more intitlement than anyone else…
    What about us “pikeys” we have no rights not allowed houses cause we are white English.We arent allowed to vote. My dad died 74 homeless I am 45 homeless, both my boys are homeless….yes maybe were not clever,yes we are not better…SO TREAT US EQUAL.

  2. That study really explains something to me that I’ve poorly understood before. Thanks for reporting it.

  3. After leaving Corporate America for 7 years and starting my own company (due to severe ratial and social-economical discrimination), I have now returned to Corporate America as a temporary employee while my husband attends school.

    I work for one of the largest corporations in America for a 6 month term and throughout this period I have been passed over when applying for a permanent position that I qualify for, treated like a second class citizen as a caucasian woman and a hispanic woman who came in behind me have been elevated under these very temporary circumstances.

    Because of the malice and hatred spewing throughout my section the hispanic and caucasian woman suggested that I be removed from the area because I am not productive and that I am on the internet, email and telephone all day everyday! I am not guilty of either of those accusations. However, today I was moved to the other side of the office with no telephone, no internet access and no e-mail. I know this because I cannot recieve e-mail from the project manager (she complained) and I did not have access to e-support on the internet for system issues that I encountered while setting up and there was no telephone on my desk to call technical support either.

    My husband tells me to leave because there are only 19 days remaining on this project but I want to tough it out.

    All of this said Corporate America is full of crap especially when it comes down to someone with 13 years of experience in HER field and 2 degrees oh and AFRICAN AMERICAN!

  4. peace, love, emphaty…

    [...]The Depressing Effects of Racial Discrimination « The Situationist[...]…

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