There is ample proof that racial discrimination harms individuals of color’s health throughout the course of their lifetimes. It has been demonstrated that it weakens the immune system, raises blood pressure, and is linked to psychological stress, anxiety, and depression. Few studies, nevertheless, have connected isolated acts of discrimination to direct negative impacts on health. A racist attack may now almost immediately increase the level of a person’s stress hormones, according to research from a ground-breaking study.
Soohyun Nam and her colleagues from Yale University’s School of Nursing worked with Black churches and their communities to enlist 12 Black persons living in the northeastern United States between the ages of 30 and 55 for the proof-of-concept research.
The study discovered that racial prejudice stood out among the individuals’ concerns, especially when compared to others like a dispute with a spouse or financial hardship. The team published its findings in PLOS ONE today. Participants’ salivary stress hormones levels nearly quadrupled the morning after they reported encountering racial prejudice, such as being called insults. On the other hand, microaggressions appeared to increase the level of a person’s stress hormones on the same day. Even in the absence of any racist encounters, when individuals reported being unhappy, their levels of alpha-amylase rose that day.
According to Nam, who validated the methodology in earlier research, this is the first study to detect both of these biomarkers concurrently and connect them to racism in real-time. Having high amounts of cortisol over time has been associated with hypertension, bone loss, and type 2 diabetes, despite the fact that these data cannot conclusively show that racism caused these biomarkers to elevate. According to Nam, the research supports the idea that “racial prejudice has a negative impact on physical and mental health.” The nuanced experience of racial prejudice, such as microaggressions, “really does matter,” there is no doubt about it.