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Front Public Health. 2017 May 29;5:104. doi: 10.3389/fpubh.2017.00104. eCollection 2017.

Racial Discrimination during Adolescence Predicts Mental Health Deterioration in Adulthood: Gender Differences among Blacks.

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Department of Psychiatry, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA.
Center for Research on Ethnicity, Culture and Health, School of Public Health, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA.
Psychiatry and Psychology Research Center, Tehran University of Medical Science, Tehran, Iran.
Psychiatric Research Center, Roozbeh Hospital, Tehran University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran.
Department of Health Behavior and Health Education, School of Public Health, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA.
Prevention Research Center, School of Public Health, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA.



Despite the existing knowledge regarding the negative mental health consequences of perceived racial discrimination, very few researchers have used a longitudinal design with long-term follow-up periods to explore gender differences in this association over time.


The current longitudinal study aimed to investigate gender differences in predictive role of an increase in perceived racial discrimination during adolescence for mental health deterioration a decade later when they are transitioning to young adulthood.


Current study followed 681 Black youths for 18 years from 1994 (mean age 15) to 2012 (mean age 32). All participants spent their adolescence and transition to young adulthood in an economically disadvantaged urban area in the Midwest of the United States. Independent variable was perceived racial discrimination measured in 1999 and 2002. Outcomes were psychological symptoms (anxiety and depression) measured in 1999 and at end of follow-up (2012). Covariates included sociodemographics (age, family structure, and parental employment) measured in 1994. Gender was used to define groups in a multigroup structural equation model to test moderating effects.


Multigroup structural equation modeling showed that among male Black youth, an increase in perceived racial discrimination from age 20 to 23 was predictive for an increase in symptoms of anxiety and depression from age 20 to 32. Among female Black youth, change in perceived racial discrimination did not predict future change in depressive or anxiety symptoms.


While racial discrimination is associated with negative mental health consequences for both genders, male and female Black youth differ in regard to long-term effects of an increase in perceived discrimination on deterioration of psychological symptoms. Black males seem to be more susceptible than Black females to the psychological effects of an increase in racial discrimination over time.


African-Americans; Blacks; anxiety; depression; gender; racial discrimination

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