How Does Racism Affect People – Marnie A. Clinically Reviewed by White, PhD, MS, Psychology – By Joan Lewsley and Rosie Slater – Updated May 31, 2023
Racism may be responsible for increasing physical and mental health disparities among Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC).
- 1 How Does Racism Affect People
- 2 Internal, Interpersonal, Institutional, And Structural Racism
- 3 The Mental Health Effects Of Racism
- 4 The Economic Cost Of Racism
- 5 How Systemic Racism Affects Public Health Part 1: Health Disparities Among Black People
- 6 Racism Hurts Everyone
How Does Racism Affect People
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about disparities in health care outcomes for different races and ethnicities.
Internal, Interpersonal, Institutional, And Structural Racism
This article shows how racism can affect the human body, how it affects physical and mental health, how a person can live a healthy life while dealing with the burden of racism, and how socioeconomic factors associated with racism can affect physical and mental health. Health accident
, racial and ethnic minorities experience poorer health and higher rates of disease in a variety of circumstances than their white counterparts.
This significant difference has sparked interest and research into how racism can affect people’s physical and mental health.
Positive associations were found between reports of racial discrimination and various physical and mental health conditions as well as preclinical indicators of disease.
The Mental Health Effects Of Racism
The research review above examined evidence linking mental and physical health outcomes to three key processes of racism. It has been found that people can experience health inequalities through:
Compiled the results of nearly 300 studies to examine how racism affects the physical and mental health of Asian Americans, African Americans, and Latinx Americans.
The above review found that racism is associated with poorer mental health and, to a lesser extent, poorer physical health.
There is a large body of research that suggests that stress associated with racism can have long-lasting physical effects.
Kff/the Undefeated Survey On Race And Health
Stress can raise blood pressure and weaken the immune system, increasing the risk of developing long-term health conditions.
Also, a 2019 study found that exposure to racism increases inflammation in African Americans, increasing their risk of chronic conditions such as heart disease and kidney disease.
One study found that mistreatment of people of color significantly affects sleep and physical activity throughout life.
Many studies have identified structural disparities in health care as a root cause of poor physical health. For example, a 2016 study on racial disparities and pain management found a link between lower pain in black patients and false biological beliefs, such as, “Black people’s skin is thicker than white people’s skin.”
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They found that compared to other ethnic groups, black children with acute appendicitis were less likely to receive medication. This suggests that racial discrimination causes medical professionals to apply different pain thresholds to different racial groups, either unconsciously or intentionally, before administering care.
Found that the link between racism and mental health was twice as strong as the link between racism and physical health. Among those researchers sampled, BIPOC who reported incidents of racism also experienced the following mental health problems:
Hate crimes against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders increased during the COVID-19 crisis, and a 2021 study found that race/ethnicity-related COVID-19 discrimination was associated with increased risk of depression, anxiety, self-harm, heavy drinking, and suicide. Concepts among Asian American and Pacific Islander students.
A 2018 paper suggests that fear of discrimination itself is harmful and can undermine positive aspects of mental health, such as resilience, hope and motivation. The paper emphasizes how verbal and physical abuse can lead to PTSD.
The Economic Cost Of Racism
Health disparities affect us differently. Visit our dedicated hub to learn more about social inequalities in health and what we can do to fix them
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is so concerned about how racism affects the well-being of young people that it issued a 2019 policy statement.
The statement said failure to address racism in the United States “will continue to undermine health equity for all children, youth, young adults and their families.”
They suggest that mothers who report experiencing racism are more likely to have low birth weight babies, which can lead to more health problems for the babies later in life.
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Like older BIPOC, young people face constant pressure to live with and experience racism and discrimination. As young BIPOC age, they are at risk of developing chronic health conditions like their parents.
The AAP recommends that youth who report incidents of racism should be evaluated for mental health conditions, including:
The AAP also states that even if children do not directly experience racism, they can be just as affected by witnessing racism as those who see it firsthand.
Deep and persistent stress can affect the way the brain develops, reinforce negative emotions like fear, and affect learning and memory.
Affirmative Action And The Myth Of Reverse Racism
BIPOC should not have the responsibility to tackle racism alone. To reduce inequality, all must tackle structural disadvantage, socio-economic deprivation and institutional inequality.
However, there is evidence that certain characteristics can help people cope physically and emotionally with the negative effects of racism.
According to the American Psychological Association (APA), talking about racist experiences, rather than bottling them up, can help a person process post-racial trauma and depression.
These feelings are nothing to be ashamed of, but if talking about experiences of racism makes someone feel bad, a counselor may be able to help that person process these feelings.
How Systemic Racism Affects Public Health Part 1: Health Disparities Among Black People
Many find it useful to channel anger and feelings of injustice into activism and campaigning for racial equality. Being part of an organization that works for sustainable change can help people connect with networks of like-minded people and find purpose.
A 2018 study found that political activism served as a protective factor in reducing the negative effects of racial and ethnic discrimination on depression and anxiety among Latinx students at a predominantly White college in the United States.
However, for black students, higher levels of political activism were associated with greater depression and anxiety than for black students less involved in politics.
We need more research to understand differences in activism as a way of coping across races.
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However, a history of law enforcement targeting black activists, and police violence at recent Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests, reports from the advocacy group Amnesty International, may explain these high levels of stress and anxiety.
A 2022 study suggested that social activism can be an important way to deal with emotional distress after seeing media coverage of police brutality and protests. But the authors say more research is needed to understand how African Americans can engage in social activism without negatively affecting mental health.
Research on racial identity and its effects on well-being has shown that African Americans who identify positively with their racial identity may have higher self-esteem and fewer depressive symptoms.
Participants who misidentified their racial identity, possibly due to internalized racism, were more likely to have more depressive symptoms.
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Therefore, having a well-developed sense of nationality or race can help moderate or prevent the effects of discrimination. However, research in this area needs to be continued as the results are still limited.
A network of people to talk to for support, advice and comfort can help a person deal with racism. It can promote a sense of security and self-awareness and reduce negative thoughts and feelings.
According to the American Psychological Association, socioeconomic status can directly affect physical and mental health. Researchers have linked low socioeconomic status and lack of economic development to poor health and shorter life expectancy.
For 1.7 million people, low socioeconomic status is a risk to a person’s health, including other major risk factors such as smoking, drinking too much alcohol or eating an unhealthy diet.
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People of lower socioeconomic status are also more likely to have avoidable medical procedures, hospitalizations, and untreated conditions.
Reduced access to housing, employment and mortgages due to low socioeconomic status can negatively affect mental health and increase feelings of depression, stress and anxiety.
Although Hispanics and African Americans appear to be at lower risk for mental health conditions than other racial or ethnic groups, those who develop such conditions have persistent mental health problems.
However, it is worth noting that this lower perceived risk may be due to racial disparities in the health care system.
How Can Racism Affect Child Development?
Also, although there is a correlation between socioeconomic status and caste, there is no absolute correlation between race and low socioeconomic status. Among BIPOC of middle and high socioeconomic status, disparities in mental and physical health persist.
Research suggests that the stress of experiencing or witnessing racism can have long-lasting effects, increasing the risk of chronic diseases and mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression in both children and adults.
Using peer and community support, building a strong sense of racial identity, and talking about racist experiences can all be effective ways to deal with racist stress.
Research suggests that low socioeconomic status has significant detrimental effects on physical health. Ethnic groups with higher levels of lower socioeconomic status also have persistent mental health conditions.
Racism Hurts Everyone
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