Childhood exposure to racial or ethnic discrimination is linked to higher rates of anxiety, depression and attention-deficit/ hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), as well as decreased general health, according to a new study presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies 2017 Meeting.
In fact, children who face discrimination have twice the odds of suffering from anxiety or depression compared to their non-discriminated peers.
For the study, researchers analyzed data from 95,677 participants enrolled in the 2011-12 National Survey on Children’s Health. In addition to providing physical and mental health data, parents and caregivers of children in the survey were asked whether the child had experienced being “judged or treated unfairly” because of his or her race or ethnicity.
After adjusting for socioeconomic status, family structure, primary language and other factors, the researchers found a significant association between exposure to racism and health. For example, the average number of children reported by parents to be in “excellent health” decreased by 5.4 percent among those exposed to perceived discrimination. Furthermore, exposure to racism also appeared to boost the odds of ADHD by 3.2 percent.
The greatest reduction in general health was found among low-income, minority children, particularly Hispanic participants, said Ashaunta Anderson, M.D., M.P.H., lead author and assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of California, Riverside. However, children from high-income families who were exposed to discrimination also experienced adverse health outcomes.
“White children with high income who experienced racial or ethnic discrimination had larger decreases in general health,” said Anderson, “while black children experiencing that combination of factors had increased rates of ADHD.”
The findings also reveal that children who experienced racial discrimination had twice the odds of anxiety and depression compared to children who did not experience discrimination. In turn, children with anxiety or depression had roughly half the odd of excellent general health, and four times the odds of ADHD.
“Our findings suggest that racial discrimination contributes to race-based disparities in child health, independent of socioeconomic factors,” Anderson said, adding that coordinated efforts are needed to support children affected by discrimination with developmentally appropriate coping strategies and systems of care.
In particular, she said, interventions that offer positive parenting practices training and promote positive peer and role model relationships can help buffer children from the negative health effects of discrimination.
The study abstract titled, “The Detrimental Influence of Racial Discrimination in the United States,” was presented in the Moscone Convention Center West in San Francisco.
Source: American Academy of Pediatrics