The role of racial discrimination in mental health has been established in a number of studies, and a new study works out some of the details in how this works.
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).