Racial discrimination detrimental to physical health

Exposure to racism is detrimental not only to our mental health but also physical health, and increases ADHD by 3.2 percent, according to a US study.

Research from Ashaunta Tumblin Anderson, Assistant Professor of Paediatrics at the University of California found that perceived racial discrimination was linked to decreased reports of excellent child health across all racial and ethnic groups.

For minority children from a lower socioeconomic status there was a decrease of excellent child health, when exposed to racism.

The results also suggested that children from higher socio-economic backgrounds who were exposed to racism also reported a decline in excellent child health.

In the same survey, caregivers were asked if their child had experienced racial discrimination and if a health care professional had given their child a diagnosis of ADHD.

“A 3.2 percent increase of child ADHD was prevalent among those children who experienced racial discrimination compared to those children who did not,” Dr Anderson said.

Research Officer at the ANU Centre for Social Research and Methods Dr Mandy Truong said there was a growing body of literature suggesting racism’s detrimental health effects.

“Heart disease, blood pressure, obesity, asthma, and even our health-related behaviours such as substance abuse or not pursuing further medical consultations have all been proven to be affected by racial discrimination,” Dr Truong said.

“What we know is that racism affects health at the biological and physiological level.”

“There’s a lot of research coming out that even at the cellular level, chronic exposure to racism which causes chronic stress can affect things at a biological level which will later affect those broader health problems like heart disease, blood pressure, and obesity,” Dr Truong said.

Through the research Dr Anderson hoped to work on developing an intervention to help parents help their young children navigate race issues in a healthy way.

“This process is called racial socialisation and clinicians may counsel families affected by racial discrimination with evidence-based racial socialisation practices such as cultural pride reinforcement,” she said.

A change in health care policy would also be integral to change.

“The health care system as a whole should consider racial discrimination as an important social determinant of health and work to find solutions that diminish systemic discrimination,” Dr Anderson said.



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