Discrimination Could Be Harmful to Your HealthRacial discrimination may be harmful to your health, according to new research.

In a new study, Drs, Jenifer Bratter and Bridget Gorman, Rice University sociologists, found that approximately 18 percent of blacks and 4 percent of whites reported higher levels of emotional upset and physical symptoms due to perceived race-based treatment.

“Discriminatory behavior very well may be a ‘missing link’ in the analysis of racial and ethnic health disparities,” Bratter said. “It’s important to acknowledge and study its impact on long-term health.”

Bratter and Gorman’s study, which examines the health risks of discrimination among both whites and blacks, as opposed to just blacks, was based on data from 2004 from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, an ongoing project between U.S. states and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The study’s focus of comparing the effects on both races is important, according to the researchers, because it examines whether discrimination is “equally harmful” to the health of black and white adults, as well as looking at whether discrimination is “disproportionately harmful” to either black or white adults.

A greater number of blacks report poor health due to discrimination, and the researchers said the study did find that black-white disparities in health are affected, in part, by the different exposure of blacks to the harmful effects of discrimination.

However, Bratter and Gorman also show that while perceiving discrimination exacerbates some of the economic-based health risks typically experienced by black adults, the patterns differ for white adults. Regardless of social-class position, white adults who perceive unfair treatment in the workplace or health care settings report poorer health.

“A relatively small proportion of white adults report unfair treatment that is race-based, but those who do say their health status is harmed more than blacks who report the same experiences,” Gorman said.

The sociologists said they hope their research will raise awareness about the impact racial discrimination has on health and wellness.

“Ultimately we hope that practitioners and researchers in the medical field recognize the dual contribution of social class and interpersonal treatment in shaping health outcomes among persons of all racial populations,” Bratter said.

The study, which appeared in the September 2011 edition of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, was funded by Rice University.

Source: Rice University

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