Embodied Discrimination: The Relation of Sexism and Distress to Women’s Drinking and Smoking Behaviors

Abstract

Discrimination has been conceptualized as a stressor that may be more negative than generic stress because it is tied to valued and unchangeable social identities. As with other stressful events, the experience of sexism has been related to poorer mental health and some physical health outcomes. This study of 179 female college students (79% of whom were White) showed that the relation between perceived sexism and binge drinking and smoking was mediated by psychological distress. In addition, there was a direct relation between sexism and smoking for weight control. Given the large toll that tobacco and excessive alcohol use exact on the U.S. population, we suggest that policy makers aim to reduce discrimination as one method to improve overall health.

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Acknowledgement

Thanks to Ami M. Lynch, Joan M. Ostrove, Eileen L. Zurbriggen, and Lance Landry for assistance on earlier drafts of the manuscript and to Ariel M. Lelchook for library research.

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Correspondence to Alyssa N. Zucker.

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Zucker, A.N., Landry, L.J. Embodied Discrimination: The Relation of Sexism and Distress to Women’s Drinking and Smoking Behaviors. Sex Roles 56, 193–203 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-006-9163-3

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Keywords

  • Sexism
  • Discrimination
  • Distress
  • Binge drinking
  • Smoking