Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Discrimination is bad for your heart

Discrimination (as a social stressor) sets into motion a process of physiological responses:
elevated blood pressure, heart rate, cortisol secretions.

These heightened physiological responses over time can have downstream effects on health.

There is substantial evidence for the harmful health effects of discrimination, including:
  • Depression 
  • Psychological distress 
  • Anxiety 
  • Well-being 
It is also linked to:
  • Hypertension 
  • Self-reported poor health 
  • Breast cancer 
  • Risk factors for disease such as obesity, high blood pressure and substance abuse
One way to understand the experience of discrimination is that it is a stressor that can broadly impact health.

Although most stressful experiences do not increase vulnerability to illness, certain kinds of stressors—those that are uncontrollable and unpredictable— are particularly harmful to health, and these characteristics are common to discrimination experiences.

Perceived discrimination and health: a meta-analytic review. 
EA Pascoe, L Smart Richman 
Psychological Bulletin, 2009

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