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Sex Differences in the Impact of Racial Discrimination on Mental Health Among Black Americans

Abstract

Purpose of Review

Greater racial discrimination is associated with poorer mental health among Black Americans; yet, there remains an incomplete understanding of sex differences in exposure to racial discrimination, and further, of how sex differences in coping with racial discrimination may heighten or diminish risk for poorer mental health.

Recent Findings

Black men may experience greater exposure to both structural and communal forms of racial discrimination, whereas Black women may face both a wider range of potential sources, as well as encounter greater variability in the subjective experience of racial discrimination. For both Black women and men, racial discrimination may be similarly associated with maladaptive coping strategies (i.e., emotional eating, rumination) that also are linked to poorer mental health; however, emerging findings suggest that mindfulness may partially buffer these deleterious effects.

Summary

Overall, the recent literature reveals mixed findings with respect to sex differences in the experience and negative mental health impact of racial discrimination. Despite this heterogeneity, evidence documents sex differences in the settings, type, and qualitative experience of racial discrimination among Black Americans. Additionally, growing evidence indicating that racial discrimination is associated with physiological markers of stress reactivity and psychopathology risk further bolsters its characterization as a unique form of chronic stress among Black Americans and other minority groups in the USA.

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References

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Acknowledgments

The authors wish to acknowledge Dr. C. Jules P. Harrell, as well as Jermaine Lamarr Cole and Kendrick Lamar Duckworth for their continual inspiration and tireless scholarly and artistic efforts to address the pernicious impact of racial discrimination on mental and physical health within the Black American community.

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Correspondence to LaBarron K. Hill.

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Briana N. Brownlow, Effua E. Sosoo, Risa N. Long, Lori S. Hoggard, and Tanisha I. Burford each declares no potential conflicts of interest.

LaBarron. K. Hill was funded by an National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) Supplement Award (121708) during preparation of the manuscript.

Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent

This article does not contain any studies with animal subjects performed by any of the authors. This article does reference previously published human subjects research conducted by Lori S. Hoggard and LaBarron K. Hill.

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This article is part of the Topical Collection on Sex and Gender Issues in Behavioral Health

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Brownlow, B.N., Sosoo, E.E., Long, R.N. et al. Sex Differences in the Impact of Racial Discrimination on Mental Health Among Black Americans. Curr Psychiatry Rep 21, 112 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11920-019-1098-9

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Keywords

  • Racial discrimination
  • Mental health
  • Black Americans
  • Sex differences
  • Emotion regulation
  • Biomarkers