Reclaiming Our Way promoting the well-being of African American children & families

10Jan/140

The Negative Impact of Racism on African American Men’s Health

There's been a good deal of research on the negative health consequences of racism in American society. Here's an excerpt from a recent article, highlighting some of the newest research to look at this from the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Scientists have long known that experiencing racism is bad for your health. In fact, racial discrimination has been linked to depression, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, and the common cold among other health issues. But can it help account for the fact that African-American men have a life expectancy nearly five years shorter than their white counterparts?

Maybe so, as a new study suggests that racial discrimination actually accelerates aging at the cellular level.

“Our findings suggest that racism literally makes people old,” lead investigator Dr. David H. Chae, an epidemiology professor at the University of Maryland's school of public health, said in a written statement.

In the study, 92 African-American men between 30 and 50 years of age answered questions about facing discrimination, such as at work, in stores, or from police. The men also completed a so-called implicit association test that measured their attitudes toward different racial groups.

Black consciousness matters. Research also shows that positive attitudes about our racial group has a positive buffering effect...

The researchers found that the men who had experienced greater racial discrimination and also displayed a stronger unconscious bias against their own racial group had the shortest telomeres. But no link was found between racism and telomere length in the African-American men who had pro-black attitudes.

"African American men who have more positive views of their racial group may be buffered from the negative impact of racial discrimination," Dr. Chae said in the statement. "In contrast, those who have internalized an anti-black bias may be less able to cope with racist experiences, which may result in greater stress and shorter telomeres."

The researchers noted that their findings may shed light on the detrimental health effects of policies like "stop-and-frisk" and others that may lead to racial profiling.

"While contemporary forms of racial discrimination may not have an overt racist component, studies consistently underscore a pattern of differential treatment of African Americans across social domains," Dr. Chae told The Huffington Post in an email.

"There need to be efforts to address policies that are discriminatory and also greater enforcement of existing protective legislation," he said, "this includes practices that are subtle and those which may not necessarily be illegal (e.g., receiving poorer service at restaurants, being followed in stores)."

Read the full article, with additional references, at The Huffington Post.

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