We are taught the saying that "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me" but just having a thick skin may not be enough as according to a new study perceived racial discrimination may be harmful to your health.
The paper's Is Discrimination an Equal Opportunity Risk? Racial Experiences, Socioeconomic Status, and Health Status among Black and White Adults authors, sociologists Jenifer Bratter and Bridget Gorman from Rice University, examined the health risks of discrimination among both whites and blacks, as opposed to just blacks in order to explain the black-white gap in self-rated health.
The study published in the Journal of Health and Social Behaviour was based on data from the 2004 wave of the Behavioural Risk Factor Surveillance System, an ongoing collaborative project between US states and territories and the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention in which the relationship between racial awareness, perceived discrimination, and self-rated health among 5902 black and 28,451 white adults were analysed.
"This racially comparative focus is important because we examine whether discrimination is equally harmful to the health status of black and white adults or whether experiencing discrimination is disproportionately harmful to either black or white adults," Gorman said. "For example, since, on average, black adults typically experience more health risks in their social and personal environment than white adults (including higher poverty and lower-quality medical insurance), they may be especially vulnerable to negative health effects as a result of racial discrimination."
They found that 18 percent of blacks and 4 percent of whites reported higher levels of emotional upset and/or physical symptoms due to race-based treatment, but while both groups were harmed it was found that the negative consequences of discriminatory experiences for black adults are exacerbated by their poorer socioeconomic standing.
In contrast, it was found that white adults of mid-range educational achievements or homemakers were more sensitive to their race status and socioeconomic standing, and rated their health poorer than black adults regardless of social-class position.
"A relatively small proportion of white adults report unfair treatment that is race-based, but those who do say their health status is harmed more than blacks who report the same experiences," Gorman said.
According to self-reported data from the 2004-2005 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey, around 6.3 percent of the total Indigenous population had diabetes nearly three times that of non-Indigenous Australians. Bratter and Gorman's research might possibly be useful to help overcome the impact that racial discrimination has on health and wellness in Australia.
"Discriminatory behaviour very well may be a 'missing link' in the analysis of racial and ethnic health disparities," Bratter said. "It's important to acknowledge and study its impact on long-term health."