Daily Discrimination Takes a Toll

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BHM Edit Staff

About seven in 10 Americans say they experience some form of discrimination on a regular basis, and that discrimination can contribute to higher stress levels and poorer health.

An online survey conducted last August by Harris Poll on behalf of the American Psychological Association (APA) found 61 percent of more than 3,300 respondents reported daily discrimination, including disrespectful treatment, receiving poorer service than others or being threatened or harassed. Nearly half of those surveyed said they had experienced major discrimination, such as unjustified questioning or threats by police, unfair treatment when receiving health care, and being fired or passed over for promotions.

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“It’s clear that discrimination is widespread and impacts many people, whether it is due to race, ethnicity, age, disability, gender or sexual orientation,” said Jaime Diaz-Granados, executive director for education at the APA, in a news release. “And when people frequently experience unfair treatment, it can contribute to increased stress and poorer health.”

Blacks were the most likely to report discrimination, with more than 75 percent of black adults saying they experience discrimination daily, and almost two in five black men saying police have unfairly stopped, searched, questioned, physically threatened or abused them. According to researchers, black, Asian, Hispanic and American Indian/Alaska Native adults cited race as the main reason they have faced discrimination.

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Outright discrimination isn’t necessary for high stress levels. Even the anticipation of discrimination can cause stress, the researchers said. Thirty percent of blacks and Hispanics who reported regular episodes of discrimination said they feel they must be very mindful of their appearance to avoid harassment or get good service.

Poor health and stress were linked in the survey. Twenty-three percent of adults who rated their health as fair or poor had higher stress levels, on average, than those who said they were in very good or excellent health. People with higher stress levels included women; Hispanic adults; younger adults; people with disabilities; and lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender people.

“Stress takes a toll on our health, and nearly one-quarter of all adults say they don’t always have access to the health care they need,” said Cynthia Belar, the APA’s interim chief executive officer. “”n particular, Hispanics—who reported the highest stress levels—were more likely to say they can’t access a non-emergency doctor when they need one. This survey shows certain subsets of our population are less healthy than others and are not receiving the same level of care as adults in general. This is an issue that must be addressed.”

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