Study Finds Link Between Racism and Depression

By Susan J. Campbell

Race impacts more in our lives than perhaps even we realize. According to recent research, fifth-graders who believe they have been mistreated as a result of the color of their skin are much more likely than their classmates to have symptoms of mental disorders, especially depression.

The Pensacola News Journal recently reported on a study that suggests that there is evidence that racial discrimination increases the odds that adolescents and adults will develop mental health problems. This is the first study that examines a possible link in children of varied races.

While the study does not prove that discrimination caused the emotional problems, it does suggest that prejudice harms children’s mental health. It is also possible that troubled kids prompt more discriminatory remarks from peers, or that children who already suffer from emotional problems have a misguided perception of more bias, according to study leader Mark Schuster, a Harvard pediatrician and pediatrics chief at Children’s Hospital Boston.

Schuster adds that there is a strong perceived link between racism and mental disorders. One example is that Hispanics who report racism are more than three times as likely as other children to have symptoms of depression; blacks are more than twice as likely; and those of monitory races have almost quadruple the odds. Those who suffer from attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), oppositional defiant disorder, and conduct disorder also have higher rates.

Prejudice was reported by 20 percent of blacks, 15 percent of Hispanics, 16 percent in the “other” category and 7 percent of whites. The study was published in the May American Journal of Public Health and involved more than 5,000 children in Birmingham, Alabama; Houston; and Los Angeles.

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