Racism and Your Health


ORLANDO, Fla. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — Racism is a problem that’s at the forefront of Americans’ minds lately. In a new research report published last year, more than eight in ten Black Americans said they thought blacks are treated less fairly than whites by the criminal justice system, in dealing with police, and in hiring, pay, and promotions. But does dealing with discrimination also affect a person’s health?

Protests … rallies … and movements … When it comes to racism, it’s clear that what many Americans want is change.

Racism causes many types of psychological harm. Now, scientists are finding out that it may also affect a person’s health. In a review of 121 studies, researchers found adolescents between ages 12 and 18 who experienced discrimination were significantly more likely to have depression and anxiety. Other research has suggested victims of racism reported a lower quality of life, higher levels of stress, and poorer overall health.

“To make people feel really hopeless and fatigued and like they’re constantly fighting an uphill battle just to be themselves,” said Wendy DuBow, PhD, a senior social scientist at University of Colorado, Boulder.

In a recent study, scientists looked at 40 Mexican American students. They found the participants who watched a stigmatizing video performed slower on a test where they could win money. The authors say exposure to the negative stereotyping changed the behavior of the subcortical nucleus accumbens, an area of the brain associated with the anticipation of reward and punishment. Just another way racism can affect the body in a negative way.

The research team at University of California, Santa Barbara that performed the study on racism and the brain plan to conduct further experiments with a larger, more diverse group of participants.

Contributors to this news report include: Julie Marks, Producer; and Roque Correa, Editor. 

REPORT #2801

BACKGROUND: Racism is defined as the marginalization and/or oppression of people of color based on a socially created racial hierarchy that privileges white people. Americans see disadvantages for blacks and Hispanics in the U.S. Most adults (56%) say being black hurts people’s ability to get ahead at least a little, and 51% say the same about being Hispanic. In contrast, 59% say being white helps people’s ability to get ahead. Systemic racism is considered a combination of systems, institutions and factors that advantage white people and for people of color, cause widespread harm and disadvantages in access and opportunity. According to a Pew Research Center survey, more than four-in-ten say the country hasn’t made enough progress toward racial equality, and there is some skepticism, particularly among blacks, that black people will ever have equal rights with whites.

(Source: https://www.adl.org/racism and https://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2019/04/09/race-in-america-2019/)

PHYSICAL EFFECTS OF RACISM: When the mind senses a potentially harmful situation, it prepares the body by increasing heart rate, breathing and blood pressure. When this stress response is repeated frequently over time, evidence shows it can contribute to health problems, including depression, anxiety, insomnia, heart disease, skin rashes and gastrointestinal problems. A growing body of evidence demonstrates that racial discrimination can trigger this stress response and racial minorities may experience more health problems as a result. “Although increasing evidence suggests that chronic exposure to unfair treatment or day-to-day discrimination increases the risk for poor health, the overall dearth of data on biological mechanisms indicates it’s important to continue studying this topic,” said Anthony Ong, a professor of human development in Cornell University’s College of Human Ecology.

(Source: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/evidence-based-living/202006/how-does-racism-affect-health)

STEPS TO IMPROVE EFFECTS OF RACISM ON YOUTH: The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) states that racism hurts not just a child’s health, but their chances for a good, successful life. It can lead to chronic stress for children which can lead to actual changes in hormones that cause inflammation in the body, a marker of chronic disease. Stress that a mother experiences during pregnancy can affect children even before they are born. It is not just the color of one’s skin that can lead to discrimination and all the problems that brings. Differences in sex, religion, sexual orientation, and immigration status can lead to discrimination, as can having a disability. These effects can be not only permanent but continue through generations. Some steps to take in fixing racism and discrimination is to take stock of one’s own beliefs and biases, and work to change them; speak up when you hear or see racism or discrimination in any form; talk to your children about racism, and teach them healthier ways to think about themselves and each other; be sure that there are programs in place to not just help people who are poor or struggling, but lift them out of poverty; and be sure our laws truly protect all people, not just some people.

(Source: https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/how-racism-harms-children-2019091417788)

* For More Information, Contact:

Wendy DuBow, PhD



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