Study: Perceived Racism Impacts Mental Health of Blacks

Study: Perceived Racism Impacts Mental Health of Blacks

The American Psychological Association reports that African-Americans’ responses to perceived racism are similar to those of trauma, including physical pain and anxiety.

Published November 16, 2011

The psychological pain of racism can translate into depression and even physical pain among African-Americans, researchers of a new study report.


In Perceived Racism and Mental Health Among Black American Adults: A Meta-Analytic Review, published recently by the American Psychological Association, researchers found that the perception of racism — defined as an ideology of racial superiority followed by discriminatory and prejudicial behavior — can cause mental health issues similar to trauma. According to the study, perceived racism can occur on an interpersonal, institutional and cultural level, which proves more stressful than discrimination alone, which was defined as the negative actions and behaviors that are directed at a person or group because of their marginal social status.



“The relationship between perceived racism and self-reported depression and anxiety is quite robust, providing an important reminder that experiences of racism may play an important role in the health disparities phenomenon,” wrote lead researcher Dr. Alex L. Pieterse. African-Americans have reported, on average, more incidents of racism than other racial minority groups, according to the study.


Somatization, or the psychological distress expressed as physical pain, interpersonal sensitivity and anxiety were among the mental health effects African-Americans reported in the study. Those who said they experienced more and very stressful racism were more likely to show these signs of mental stress.


The study synthesized data from 66 other reports comprising 18,140 Black adults in the United States. Researchers wrote this was that first meta-analysis on the impact of racism on mental health that focused exclusively on Black adults.


Researchers concluded that mental health specialists should pay special attention to how of racism shapes the lives of African-Americans and that mental health educators should include anti-racism segments in their curriculums. In addition, more research should be done in observing how racism is perceived in various social settings, including in schools and in the workplace.

(Photo: David McNew/GettyImages)

Written by Britt Middleton


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