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Ethn Dis. 1996 Winter-Spring;6(1-2):132-47.

Racism and the physical and mental health status of African Americans: a thirteen year national panel study.

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  • 1Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor 48106-1248, USA.


This paper examined the relationships between the experiences and perceptions of racism and the physical and mental health status of African Americans. The study was based upon thirteen year (1979 to 1992), four wave, national panel data (n = 623) from the National Survey of Black Americans. Personal experiences of racism were found to have both adverse and salubrious immediate and cumulative effects on the physical and mental well-being of African Americans. In 1979-80, reports of poor treatment due to race were inversely related to subjective well-being and positively associated with the number of reported physical health problems. Reports of negative racial encounters over the 13-year period were weakly predictive of poor subjective well-being in 1992. A more general measure of racial beliefs, perceiving that whites want to keep blacks down, was found to be related to poorer physical health in 1979-80, better physical health in 1992, and predicted increased psychological distress, as well as, lower levels of subjective well-being in 1992. In conclusion, the authors suggested future research on possible factors contributing to the relationship between racism and health status among African Americans.

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