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Racism triggers trauma response

sad black woman

For black Americans, their reaction to perceived racism may cause symptoms identical to that of trauma. It may also contribute to physical health disparities between blacks and other racial/ethnic groups.

While there have been other studies evaluating race and mental health, this is the first meta-analysis looking specifically at black adults and their mental health. “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 Alex Pieterse, PhD, University at Albany, State University of New York and lead author.

The team looked at 66 different studies involved over 18,000 black adults in the US. Researchers found the psychological responses to racism are very similar to common responses to trauma, such as somatization or psychological distress expressed as physical pain, interpersonal sensitivity, and anxiety. There was a direct association between those people who said they experience more and very stressful racism and those who reported mental health concerns.

“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,” Pieterse said. “For example, African-Americans have higher rates of hypertension, a serious condition that has been associated with stress and depression.”

The authors suggest that mental health providers assess racism as part of their intake evaluations.

Source: MedicalNewsToday

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