, Volume 25, Issue 1, pp 55-65

Perceived racism and blood pressure: A review of the literature and conceptual and methodological critique

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Abstract

Racial disparities in health, including elevated rates of hypertension (HT) among Blacks, are widely recognized and a matter of serious concern. Researchers have hypothesized that social stress, and in particular exposure to racism, may account for some of the between-group differences in the prevalence of HT and a portion of the within-group variations in risk for HT However, there have been surprisingly few empirical studies of the relationship between perceived racism and blood pressure (BP) or cardiovascular reactivity (CVR), a possible marker of mechanisms culminating in cardiovascular disease. This article reviews published literature investigating the relationship of perceived racismto HT-relatedvariables, including self-reported history of HT, BP level, or CVR. Strengths andweaknesses of the existing research are discussed to permit the identification of research areas that may elucidate the biopsychosocial mechanisms potentially linking racism to HT We hope to encourage investigators to invest in research on the health effects of racism because a sound and detailed knowledge base in this area is necessary to address racial disparities in health.

We gratefully acknowledge the ideas and insights of Richard Contrada, Thomas Pickering, and Jonathan Tobin, who made valuable contributions to an earlier version of this text. We recognize the contributions of all the members of our research team including Frances Aguera, Risa Appel, Jennifer Barimah, Kia Brinson, Vonetta Coakley, Shirley Cohen, Bezalel Eichler, Stephanie Erikson, Tamar Gordon, Pia Hough, Erika Levy, Joseph Taravella, Shola Thompson, and Lev Zavulunov. We also acknowledge the dedication and insightful comments of the anonymous reviewers.