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Soc Sci Med. 2004 Feb;58(3):449-61.

Perceived stress following race-based discrimination at work is associated with hypertension in African-Americans. The metro Atlanta heart disease study, 1999-2001.

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Morehouse School of Medicine, Department of Community Health and Preventive Medicine, Social Epidemiology Research Division and Cardiovascular Research Institute, NCPC-315, 720 Westview Drive SW, Atlanta, GA 30310-1495, USA.


There is increasing evidence of an association between stress related to job strain and hypertension. However little data exist on stress from racism and race-based discrimination at work (RBDW). The objective of this study was to investigate whether blood pressure (BP) outcomes are positively associated with stressful racism towards African-Americans from non-African-Americans as well as RBDW from other African-Americans. The metro Atlanta heart disease study was a population-based study which included 356 African-American men and women, aged >/=21 years, residing in metropolitan Atlanta, Georgia during 1999-2001. Perceived stress was self-reported by 197 participants for racism from non-African-Americans and 95 for RBDW from other African-Americans. Sitting systolic (SBP) and diastolic (DBP) BP were taken at a clinic visit and was the average of the last two of three BP measures. Hypertension was self-reported as physician-diagnosed high BP on 2 or more visits. Logistic and least-squares linear regression models were fit accordingly and separately for each type of stress, adjusting for age, gender, body mass index, and coping abilities. The likelihood of hypertension significantly increased with higher levels of perceived stress following racism from non-African-Americans, but not from RBDW from other African-Americans; adjusted odd ratios (95% CI) were 1.4 (1.0, 1.9) and 1.2 (0.8, 1.5) per unit increment of stress. The adjusted magnitude of SBP and DBP increase between low and very high level of stress, conversely, was greater when RBDW originated from African-Americans than racism from non-African-Americans. Stressful racism and RBDW encounters are associated with increased SBP and DBP and increased likelihood of hypertension in African-Americans. Future studies with a larger sample size are warranted to further explore these findings for mechanistic understanding and occupational policy consideration regarding stress risk reduction.

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