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Previous studies have linked America’s black population with higher instances of medical problems, such as high blood pressure, obesity, cardiovascular problems, poor self-reported health and premature disease-related disability when compared with other races. But, according to preliminary epidemiological findings for a new study, when it comes to mental health and occurrences of mental disorders, black Americans rank lower than white Americans. But their coping methods might be causing these physical ailments.

A previous study found that the levels of psychological distress and rates of mental disorders in individuals under psychiatric treatment were higher among black people than white people. But the new study, regarding recent reports of community psychiatric epidemiological studies, found that rates of most major mental disorders that are much lower among African-Americans than whites.

Researcher James Jackson said the early researchers did not measure simultaneous rates of psychological distress, psychiatric symptoms, mental disorders, coping, number of individuals who sought assistance, and physical health conditions and statuses in large, heterogeneous, national samples of black people and other groups.

However, he said, it is possible that some of the health problems impacting the African-American community could be a factor in lower instances of mental health disorders.

“It is hypothesized that coping strategies [such as substance abuse or over-eating] that are effective in preserving mental health [even if they are themselves harmful to general health] may contribute, along with structural inequalities, to observed health disparities,” Jackson said.

He cited the fact that alcohol usage for black men and women is at its highest in middle-age and that high-blood pressure, heavy cigarette use and obesity climbs to high levels after age 50 in both groups.

Source: Association For Psychological Science

Heather Rudow is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Email her at hrudow@counseling.org.

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