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Prev Hum Serv. 1983 Spring;2(3):5-29.

Stress, coping, and Black mental health: preliminary findings from a national study.


Despite the fact that blacks are disproportionately exposed to social conditions considered to be antecedents of psychiatric disorder, epidemiologic studies have not conclusively demonstrated that blacks exhibit higher rates of mental illness than whites. The present paper employed a research approach which considered not only rates of psychological distress, but also the stressors that blacks face and the various coping strategies used to adapt to those stressors. The data were obtained from the National Survey of Black Americans, the first study of a national probability sample of the adult black population. The information on mental health and coping was collected within the context of a single stressful personal problem. The analysis indicates that prayer was an extremely important coping response used by blacks especially among those making less than $10,000, above the age of 55 and women. The informal social network was used quite extensively as a means of coping with problems. This was true for all sociodemographic groups studied. The young (18-34) were less likely than those age 35 and above to seek professional help, while women were more likely than men to seek formal assistance. Income was not related to professional help seeking. With respect to the use of specific professional help sources, hospital emergency rooms, private physicians and ministers were used most frequently. The implications of these findings for research on black mental health and primary prevention are discussed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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