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Restrained Response to Bias Can Lead to Depression

New research suggests a stoic approach to racial discrimination can lead to increased symptoms of depression among African-American men.

Investigators from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill discovered emotional control while enduring subtle, insidious acts of racial discrimination may be counterproductive. The study is found online in the American Journal of Public Health.

“We know that traditional role expectations are that men will restrict their emotions — or ‘take stress like a man,’” said study author Wizdom Powell Hammond, Ph.D. “However, the more tightly some men cling to these traditional role norms, the more likely they are to be depressed.

“It also is clear that adherence to traditional role norms is not always harmful to men,” Hammond said. “But we don’t know a lot about how these norms shape how African-American men confront stressors, especially those that are race-related.”

Hammond studied the phenomenon researchers call everyday racism, which is marked not so much by magnitude or how egregious the prejudice and torment were, but by persistence and subtlety.

“It chips away at people’s sense of humanity and very likely at their hope and optimism,” Hammond said. “We know these daily hassles have consequences for men’s mental health, but we don’t know why some men experience depression while others do not.”

Hammond studied data collected from surveys of 674 African-American men, aged 18 and older, carried out at barber shops in four U.S. regions between 2003 and 2010.

She found that everyday racial discrimination was associated with depression across all age groups. Younger men (aged under 40) were more depressed, experienced more discrimination and had a stronger allegiance to norms encouraging them to restrict their emotions than men over 40 years old. Furthermore, some men who embraced norms encouraging more self-reliance reported less depression.

The results showed associations, not necessarily causation, Hammond  cautioned.

The data also showed that when men felt strongly about the need to shut down their emotions, then the negative effect of discrimination on their mental health was amplified. The association was particularly apparent for men aged 30 years and older.

“It seems as though there may be a cumulative burden or long-term consequences of suffering such persistent discriminatory slights and hassles in silence,” Hammond said. “Our next task is to determine when embracing traditional role norms are harmful or helpful to African-American men’s mental health.”

The information will help target future interventions to subgroups of men, rather than try to reach all men with one general approach.

“African-American men are not all alike, just as all people in any group are not alike,” Hammond said.

“The way they feel, respond and react changes over time as they normally develop. The slings and arrows of everyday racism still exist, and we need to find targeted ways to help men defend against them while also working to address the policy structures that project them.”

Source: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Restrained Response to Bias Can Lead to Depression

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2015). Restrained Response to Bias Can Lead to Depression. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 19, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2012/03/15/restrained-response-to-bias-can-lead-to-depression/36034.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 6 Oct 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Oct 2015
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.