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Aging Ment Health. 2011 Jul 1;15(5):587-94. doi: 10.1080/13607863.2010.543664.

The relationships between major lifetime discrimination, everyday discrimination, and mental health in three racial and ethnic groups of older adults.

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The Louis, Gabi Weisfeld School of Social Work, Bar-Ilan University, Ramat Gan, Israel.



To evaluate the relationships between perceived exposure to major lifetime discrimination, everyday discrimination, and mental health in three racial/ethnic groups of older adults.


The Health and Retirement Study is a nationally representative sample of individuals 50 years and older living in the United States. A total of 6455 Whites, 716 Latinos, and 1214 Blacks were eligible to complete a self-report psychosocial questionnaire in the year 2006.


Whereas 30% of the general population reported at least one type of major lifetime discrimination, almost 45% of Black older adults reported such discrimination. Relative to the other two racial/ethnic groups (82% Whites, 82.6% Blacks), Latinos were significantly less likely to report any everyday discrimination (64.2%), whereas Blacks reported the greatest frequency of everyday discrimination. Whites reported the highest levels of life satisfaction and the lowest levels of depressive symptoms. Relative to major lifetime discrimination, everyday discrimination had a somewhat stronger correlation with mental health indicators. The relationships between discrimination and mental health outcomes were stronger for White compared to Black older adults, although everyday discrimination was still significantly associated with outcomes for Black older adults.


Black older adults experience the greatest number of discriminative events, but weaker associated mental health outcomes. This could be because they have become accustomed to these experiences, benefit from social or cultural resources that serve as buffers, or selective survival, with the present sample capturing only the most resilient older adults who have learned to cope with the deleterious effects of discrimination.

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