Study Finds Everyday Discrimination Associated With Elevated Health Risks

A new study by researchers at Cornell University, Harvard University, and the University of Southern California, presents evidence that everyday racial discrimination and microaggressions can have a significant negative impact on the health of African Americans. Researchers interviewed a large group of African American adults in Milwaukee on their experiences with everyday racism. They also took blood, urine, and saliva samples to test for biomarkers of elevated disease risk.

The results showed a correlation between the frequency of incidents of everyday discrimination for African Americans and health risks for diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, obesity, and other life-limiting conditions.

Anthony D. Ong, an associate professor of human development in the College of Human Ecology at Cornell University and the lead author of the study, stated that “chronic experiences of discrimination and mistreatment can affect health in the most insidious of ways, both because such experiences can undercut rights and opportunities that may be of vital importance to stigmatized groups and because they have the potential to negate the significance of personal agency and identity in the lives of marginalized individuals.”

The study, “Everyday Unfair Treatment and Multisystem Biological Dysregulation in African-American Adults,” will be published in an upcoming issue of the journal Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology. The full text of the article can be accessed at Dr. Ong’s Cornell University webpage.

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  1. I practice medicine in the “Whitest City in America” per The Atlantic in an article last Fall, where I started a nonprofit to address health disparities. Are you aware that racism meets CDC’s own criteria for threat to public health? Yes, but Tom Frieden will not, as evidenced by his non-response to my letter in that regard last year. We’ve started a campaign to force the issue, but following this election, it has become more important but less on the radar. I would like to do more visible promulgating of not only the campaign, but our solution (which CDC says doesn’t exist in “evidence-based” clinical worlds but that is because they are not doing their job! Irony is racism’s ugly brother.
    As folks of color, we have known this forever. It’s time for those tasked with our health to start listening to US rather than telling us what we need.
    Please contact me if you truly want to make a difference in this regard. There are scholarly and clinical experts doing cutting-edge work on this. We just need the institutions already responsible to exercise DUE diligence, not just assure that they appear to be.
    Leslie Gregory, MSBS, PA-C

  2. Thanks for your comments. We started the Institute for African American Health, Inc. in 1993 ( Jan 5, 1993 to be exact ! ) to address some of these issues. I have practiced medicine in the “Old South” for over 35 years – Tallahassee, Florida. We recently started a “Black Brains Matter 2 ” movement in the Public school sector in Florida – we have some of the worst in the nation.

    Like racism – EDUCATION is a major risk factor for poor health but there is NO concerted effort to link the two at the policy level. Instead, we ask the public schools to do what POLITICIANS AND BUSINESSMEN should do – eliminate the institutionalized barriers that PERPETUATE INEQUALITY AT ALL LEVELS !

    I would love to join your effort. Likewise, we invite you to join our effort this May 19 – 20, 2017 in Tallahassee for our Second Annual Summit: “Brown vs Poverty, Prejudice and Politics – How Can ANY School Succeed “?

    Look forward to your reply.

    Joe Webster

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