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Psychol Bull. 2014 Jul;140(4):921-48. doi: 10.1037/a0035754. Epub 2014 Feb 17.

The consequences of perceived discrimination for psychological well-being: a meta-analytic review.

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Department of Psychology.
Department of Psychology, University of Kansas.
Department of Social Psychology, University of Groningen.
Department of Psychology, College of Wooster.


In 2 meta-analyses, we examined the relationship between perceived discrimination and psychological well-being and tested a number of moderators of that relationship. In Meta-Analysis 1 (328 independent effect sizes, N = 144,246), we examined correlational data measuring both perceived discrimination and psychological well-being (e.g., self-esteem, depression, anxiety, psychological distress, life satisfaction). Using a random-effects model, the mean weighted effect size was significantly negative, indicating harm (r = -.23). Effect sizes were larger for disadvantaged groups (r = -.24) compared to advantaged groups (r = -.10), larger for children compared to adults, larger for perceptions of personal discrimination compared to group discrimination, and weaker for racism and sexism compared to other stigmas. The negative relationship was significant across different operationalizations of well-being but was somewhat weaker for positive outcomes (e.g., self-esteem, positive affect) than for negative outcomes (e.g., depression, anxiety, negative affect). Importantly, the effect size was significantly negative even in longitudinal studies that controlled for prior levels of well-being (r = -.15). In Meta-Analysis 2 (54 independent effect sizes, N = 2,640), we examined experimental data from studies manipulating perceptions of discrimination and measuring well-being. We found that the effect of discrimination on well-being was significantly negative for studies that manipulated general perceptions of discrimination (d = -.25), but effects did not differ from 0 when attributions to discrimination for a specific negative event were compared to personal attributions (d = .06). Overall, results support the idea that the pervasiveness of perceived discrimination is fundamental to its harmful effects on psychological well-being.

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