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Sociol Health Illn. 2010 Sep;32(6):843-61. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9566.2010.01257.x. Epub 2010 Jul 23.

Perceived discrimination, psychological distress and health.

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Center for Population Health and Health Disparities, Northeastern University, Boston, USA.


Racism and discrimination can have significant implications for health, through complex biopsychosocial interactions. Latino groups, and particularly Puerto Ricans, are an understudied population in the United States in terms of the prevalence of discrimination and its relevance to health. Participants in our study were 45- to 75-year-old (N = 1122) Puerto Ricans. The measures were perceived discrimination, depressive symptomatology (CES-D), perceived stress (PSS), self-rated health, medical conditions, blood pressure, smoking and drinking behaviours, demographics. Our findings show that 36.9 per cent of participants had at some time experienced discrimination, with men, those with more years of education, currently employed and with higher incomes being more likely to report it. Experiences of discrimination were associated with increased levels of depressive symptoms and perceived stress. When controlling for covariates, perceived discrimination was predictive of the number of medical conditions, of ever having smoked and having been a drinker, and having higher values of diastolic pressure. Depressive symptoms are a mediator of the effect of perceived discrimination on medical conditions, confirmed by the Sobel test: z = 3.57, p < 0.001. Mediating roles of perceived stress, smoking and drinking behaviours were not confirmed. Increased depressive symptoms might be the main pathway through which perceived discrimination is associated with a greater number of medical diagnoses.

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