Racism is a difficult, uncomfortable experience for anyone, but researchers have found that perceived racism can impact black Americans in a way similar to experiencing trauma and could perhaps shed light on some of the health problems seen among the race.

The researchers examined 66 studies of 18,140 black adults in the United States and found that black Americans’ psychological responses to racism are very similar to common responses to trauma, such as somatization, which is psychological distress expressed in ways such as physical pain, interpersonal sensitivity and anxiety. And, the study found, individuals who said they experienced more and very stressful experiences of racism were more likely to report mental distress.

“We focused on black American adults because this is a population that has reported, on average, more incidents of racism than other racial minority groups and because of the potential links between racism and not only mental health, but physical health as well,” said lead author Alex Pieterse. “The relationship between perceived racism and self-reported depression and anxiety is quite robust, providing a reminder that experiences of racism may play an important role in the health disparities phenomenon. For example, African-Americans have higher rates of hypertension, a serious condition that has been associated with stress and depression.”

Source: American Psychological Association



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