New Study: Discrimination Towards Black People Causes Them Stress & Poor Health
African Americans pay a high price for living in a discriminatory society where stress can impact health and well-being. The enduring wealth gap that has widened in recent years as well as the protraction of poverty, social isolation, residential segregation and other social institutions have been shown to be causative factors for the development of systemic disease secondary to stress.
In the past, stress was considered simply a state of mind. We now know that stress causes physiological changes in the body, which could lead to development and progression of chronic disease. Because Black Americans report higher levels of racial discrimination, they are more likely to develop pre-mature disease in the form of high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, certain cancers, cardiovascular disease and other serious health problems.
Research has documented that psychological stress resulting from race-based mistreatment may contribute to more oxidative stress originating from the red blood cells in the body. Oxidative stress is the process by which free radicals, or reactive oxygen species, damage cellular components including DNA, proteins and lipids. In addition, African Americans who reported suffering from racial discrimination had higher levels of oxidative stress than whites.
In a study of stress and discrimination, the researchers conclude, “This is a preliminary report of an association between racial discrimination and oxidative stress. It is a first step to understanding whether there is a relationship between the two. Our findings suggest that there may be identifiable cellular pathways by which racial discrimination amplifies cardiovascular and other age-related disease risks. If increased red blood cell oxidative stress is associated with experiencing racial discrimination in African Americans, this could be one reason that many age-associated chronic disease have a higher prevalence in this group.”
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