Systemic Racism Erodes Mental Health, Study Finds

Justin Karter
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New research out of the United Kingdom examines the cumulative impact of systemic racism on the mental health of minorities over time.  The study, published in the American Journal of Public Health, finds that people who experience repeated incidents of racial discrimination are significantly more likely to report mental health problems than those who experience fewer instances of discrimination.

“In this study, we confirmed the longitudinal effects in a large population-based study and additionally showed that cumulative exposure to racial discrimination over time significantly worsens mental health,” write the researchers, Stephanie Wallace, James Nazroo, and Laia Bécares, from the Centre on Dynamics of Ethnicity at the University of Manchester.

“By making full use of new longitudinal data, we have been able to show how repeated exposure to racial discrimination over time, and accumulation of exposure across domains, affects the psychological distress of ethnic minority people in the United Kingdom and contributes to persistent ethnic inequalities in mental health.”

racism and mental health AJHP

Wallace and her colleagues critique previous research which has examined racial discrimination as individual and episodic occurrences rather than as a pervasive and ever-present experience. They attempted to address this gap in the literature by looking at how cumulative exposure to systemic racism affects the mental health of ethnic minority people over time.

The researchers were able to utilize the Understanding Society dataset of approximately 40,000 households in the UK, which tracked participants over time and regularly surveyed them about their experiences of racial discrimination and their mental health.

Mental health was assessed using scores from a 12-question Mental Component Summary (MCS) questionnaire and ethnic discrimination data was extracted from qualitative interviews conducted every two years. In these interviews, participants were given four questions asking if, in the past year, they (1) had felt unsafe; (2) had avoided going to or being in several locations; (3) had been insulted, called names, threatened, or shouted at; or (4) had been physically attacked.

“We found a cumulative, dose–response relation between experiences of racial discrimination and the mental health of ethnic minority people, so that ethnic minority people who reported repeated occurrences of racial discrimination, over time and across domains, had a reduction of 8 points in their MCS scores, compared with their peers who did not report any experiences of racial discrimination,” the researchers write.

They also found that participants who reported feeling unsafe or avoiding spaces because of racial discrimination had the largest cumulative increase in mental ill health.

“This finding would suggest that previous exposure to racial discrimination over the life course, or awareness of racial discrimination experienced by others, can continue to affect the mental health of ethnic minority people, even after the initial exposure to racial discrimination.”

 

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Wallace, S., Nazroo, J. and Bécares, L., 2016. Cumulative Effect of Racial Discrimination on the Mental Health of Ethnic Minorities in the United Kingdom. American journal of public health106(7), pp.1294-1300. (Abstract)

7 COMMENTS

    • My exact thoughts as I read this. It is so painfully obvious that the mh system is one big vat of social ills. All we can do is keep spreading the word.

      I also hope that people wise up to the fact that there is no changing this from the inside. I’d say it’s time to jump ship. Its demise is inevitable in this day and age is social revolution against corruption and oppression. Given that it is SUPPOSED to be about health, let’s add criminally fraudulent to that list of reasons why it should no longer be.

    • I agree, millions in research dollars are going into “mental health” studies that end up proclaiming the blatantly obvious. It is inane, absurd, and staggeringly fiscally irresponsible. But I will say the same results would no doubt also be found for all other types of discrimination, including discrimination based upon scientifically “invalid and unreliable” psychiatric diagnoses, discrimination based upon religious beliefs, discrimination based upon gender, discrimination based upon sexual orientation, discrimination based upon economic status, etc.

      And we are living in a way too paternalistically controlled world, with a ‘mental health’ industry, main stream media, and even some members of our government, who villainize the ‘mentally ill,’ the Muslims, the Christians, people of any color other than white, the poor, the women. I will say they have seemingly been glorifying the gay lifestyle as of late for our children, except the “mental health professionals,” who are happy stigmatizing absolutely anyone they can get their hands on for profit.

      In 2005, I did a painting of an upside down and backwards American flag, with an almost empty calla lily / cornucopia overlaid on it. The painting was meant to be a reminder of the complete insanity of those at the time, and still currently, ruling our now morally and fiscally bankrupt country, the former land of plenty. That was the year my psychiatrist finally looked at my work, and went from claiming I was “w/o work, content, and talent,” to claiming I was a “smart female,” “insightful,” and had a “recov’d disorder.”

      It’s not us who are nuts, it’s those trying to ‘maintain the status quo,’ now that the US has been taken over by those who want to rule the entire world with “terror, terror, terror” and disrespect of the majority. It’s a financial war, and the people behind it already have the solution to the problems they’ve created set up, it’s called the IMF. I think we should get the historic, and current, war mongers / thieves / European bankers out of control instead. As well as their minions, the scientifically irrelevant DSM defamers.

  1. if u are minority, u have no rights in this country, I didn’t say this, its a fact. At least, I know my human rights were violated completely, if they were so paranoid, they should have asked me to leave and I would have left their country, I have no ulterior motives, there is no bad feelings in my heart, so if you are paranoid, talk to me clearly, don’t fucking fuck with my life and play games with me and my family you damn cursed satanic bastards