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Womens Health Issues. 2010 May-Jun;20(3):211-8. doi: 10.1016/j.whi.2010.02.002.

Effects of gender discrimination and reported stress on drug use among racially/ethnically diverse women in Northern California.

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University of Michigan, Department of Health Behavior and Health Education, Ann Arbor, MI 48106, USA.



Gender discrimination has been associated with worse health outcomes for U.S. women. Using the stress and coping process framework, we examined whether lifetime gender discrimination was associated with maladaptive coping behaviors, namely, lifetime and recent hard drug use. We also considered whether reported stress from gender discrimination mediated this relationship and whether this process differed across racial/ethnic groups.


We used data from a racially/ethnically diverse convenience sample of 754 women attending family planning clinics in Northern California (11% African American, 17% Latina, 10% Asian, and 62% Caucasian). To test our hypotheses, we conducted logistic regression models, controlling for sociodemographic characteristics.


Gender discrimination was positively associated with both lifetime and recent hard drug use. We did not find support for the mediation hypothesis, because stress was not associated with either lifetime or recent hard drug use. There was evidence of some race moderation for the Latina sample. Among these respondents, gender discrimination was associated with higher odds of lifetime drug use, whereas stress was associated with lower odds.


These results suggest that experiences of gender discrimination may still activate negative coping strategies involving drug use, regardless of the stress they cause. For Latina respondents, more research is needed to better understand the stress and coping process related to gender discrimination.

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