Discrimination Takes a Toll on Mental Health

A new study by sociologist Verna Keith, professor at Florida State University, finds that discrimination takes a toll on the mental health of African American women (h/t @mtrobinson via Twitter).

Keith’s research study, published in the journal Sex Roles, used data from the National Survey of American Life: Coping with Stress in the 21st Century to analyze the relationship between perceived discrimination and depressive symptoms among 2,300 African American adult women. They also looked at whether personal efficacy — the belief that one can control important circumstances affecting one’s life — explained the intensity of the women’s psychological response to discrimination, and whether experiences of discrimination differed by skin complexion while controlling for intervening variables such as age and education.  In general, African American women who viewed themselves as being able to exercise some control over their life circumstances reported fewer depressive symptoms.

Keith’s findings also suggest that African American women who were subjected to higher levels of unfair treatment experienced more depressive symptoms, in part, because day-to-day discrimination undermined their overall confidence in their ability to manage life challenges, leaving them feeling powerless and depressed.

These new findings confirm what we point out again and again on this blog:  racial discrimination persists, it is pervasive, and it has a detrimental effect on the health and life chances of people of color.

~ Verna Keith will be moving to Texas A&M University in January 2010 to head the Racial and Ethnic Studies Institute.



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