For African American adults, perceived racism may cause
mental health symptoms similar to trauma and could lead to some physical health
disparities between blacks and other populations in the United States,
according to a new study published by the American Psychological Association.
Compelling evidence indicate that race and ethnicity
correlate with persistent, and often increasing, health disparities among U.S.
populations in all these categories and demands national attention. Because
racial and ethnic minority groups are expected to comprise an increasingly
larger proportion of the U.S. population in coming years, the future health of
America will be greatly influenced by our success in improving the health of
Despite great improvements in the overall health of the nation,
Americans who are members of racial and ethnic minority groups are more likely
than whites to have poor health and to die prematurely. These
disparities are believed to be the results of the complex interaction among
genetic variations, environmental factors, and specific health behaviors.
An examination of 66 previous studies that included more than
18,000 black adults concluded that there are common responses to both racism
and trauma, including somatization (psychological distress that is expressed as
physical pain), interpersonal sensitivity and anxiety. The more stressful the
racism, the more likely a person was to report mental distress.
The researchers suggested that the link between mental health
and racism could contribute to physical health disparities between blacks and
other Americans of different races and ethnicities.
The relationship between perceived racism and self-reported
depression and anxiety is quite robust, providing a reminder that experiences
of racism may play an important role in the health disparities phenomenon. For
example, African Americans have higher rates of hypertension [high blood
pressure], a serious condition that has been associated with stress and
The study's authors noted that therapists should routinely
assess their black patients' experiences with racism during treatment.
SOURCE: BLACK DOCTOR