, Volume 22, Issue 3, pp 214-222

Perceptions of interethnic group racism predict increased vascular reactivity to a laboratory challenge in college women

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Abstract

African-Americans have disproportionately higher rates of hypertension than any other U.S. ethnic group. Researchers have postulated that the psychosocial-stress association with racism may help explain these higher rates in African-Americans, as well as blood pressure variability among African-Americans. Using a quasi-experimental design, this study examined the relationship between perceived interethnic group racism (racism) and blood pressure responses in 39 African-American females. Measurements of blood pressure were obtained before, during, and after a laboratory challenge where participants spoke about their personal views and feelings concerning animal rights. Perceptions of racism, as well as psychological and coping responses to racism, were assessed via the Perceived Racism Scale. The results revealed that on average, participants perceived racism 75.25 times/year. Racist statements were perceived most often, and speaking up was the most frequently reported coping response. The overwhelming majority of participants (76.47%) used active and passive coping responses to deal with racism. Among the psychological responses to racism, the magnitude of emotional responding was greatest for anger. Multivariate regression analyses indicated that perceived racism was significantly and positively related to diastolic blood pressure changes during the speech (p=.01), early recovery (p<.003), and late recovery (p=.01) periods. Potential confounders did not mitigate these effects. The findings highlight the importance of delineating the role of more real-world behavioral challenges in future research exploring blood pressure variability and hypertension risk in African-Americans.

I am grateful to Drs. Norman B. Anderson, James Blumenthal, Vernessa Clark, Karen Gil, Bill Jenkins, and anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments on earlier drafts of this article.