Racism Worsens Depression in Black Teens, Study Finds
Not exactly a shocker -- but the frequency of racial discrimination in a two-week period sure is
February 6, 2020
Black teenagers surveyed in a new study experienced racial discrimination on an average of five times a day, and researchers saw their depression symptoms increase, too.
Devin English, a psychologist at the Rutgers University School of Public Health, and his colleagues surveyed 101 black students between the ages of 13 to 17 in the Washington, D.C. area. They wondered the frequency of racism the kids were experiencing, and how it impacted their mental health. The results are published in the January-February issue of the Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology.
The teenagers completed 1,139 daily surveys and reported 5,606 experiences of discrimination, which averages almost five instances of racism a day. According to Science News for Students, three most common forms were individual and vicarious online incidents and race-related offline teasing.
Before beginning the two-week period of daily surveys inquiring about experiences that indicated racism, English’s research team asked the teens 20 questions about signs of possible depression. By the end, the researchers found symptoms had worsened in students who experienced more frequent real-world discrimination offline, while targeted incidents of racism online also made symptoms worse.
English commented, “This is over a two-week period for young people. And if discrimination is causing someone to feel worse about themselves over a short period of time — and that’s happening over and over and over again — you would expect that it’s leading to things like more serious mental-health symptoms.”
The psychologist, who specializes in studying human behavior, the mind and emotional health, compared the emotional burden of racial discrimination to a backpack. “Over time, if we don’t have the resources and support to help unload some of those things from the backpack, it becomes really, really heavy.”
English recognized that black communities around the country are “extremely diverse,” so he’s planning more studies in other U.S. cities. However, it’s not hard to imagine similar results in any other location. Discrimination, of any kind, makes people feel bad about themselves, and that repeated negativity can weigh them down.
As the struggle for true racial equality in America continues, English suggested one powerful tool at our disposal — listening.
English hopes the caucasian population can be “honest with ourselves” about what privilege skin color has provided, and reminds that when a person of color shares experiences of racial discrimination, “they’re putting a lot of confidence in you, and they’re trusting you.”
“It’s really important to listen to that,” he said.
About the Writer:
Greg Gilman spent nearly a decade as an entertainment news reporter and editor for publications including Perez Hilton, TheWrap and TMZ’s TooFab. He left that life behind at the start of 2019, and spent the year detoxing his mind from the pop culture poison that had accumulated over the last decade. Now, he’s focused on writing pieces that are beneficial for the world around him, in between gigs as the frontman of LA rock band, Greg in Good Company. He has suffered from depression and anxiety, and is still trying to conquer an addiction to screens and social media, but has found studying Eastern spiritual philosophies to be tremendously helpful in his quest for peace of mind.
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