Discrimination Stressing Americans Out

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Almost 7 out of 10 adults have experienced discrimination in the U.S., whether based on color, sex, physical ability, ethnicity or other factors. More than 61 percent face it regularly at work, in retail establishments, from police or in other situations. That constant discrimination is stressing many Americans out and impacting their health, according to new data.

To study the impact of discrimination, the American Psychological Association (APA) had Harris Poll survey 3,361 adults in the U.S. The APA has surveyed U.S. adults annually on their stress levels, but focused in recent years on prejudicial treatment as a growing cause of anxiety and tension. Groups of people reporting higher stress levels include blacks, Hispanics, younger adults, women, people with disabilities, and those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

The organization focused on discrimination as a cause in this most recent study based on clashes between police and minorities that have fueled racial tensions, according to Jaime Diaz-Granados, the APA’s executive director for education. The resulting Stress in America: The Impact of Discrimination study illustrates how persistent discrimination is creating health problems and stressing out so many Americans regularly now.

Reports of unfair treatment were most widespread among blacks, but the link between prejudicial treatment and stress was discernable across all groups, according to Diaz-Granados. “We found that those folks who reported discrimination (and) reported a higher level of stress as well as poor health as compared to cohorts in the same group that reported not experiencing discrimination,” he noted.

Adults who are black, Asian, Hispanic, American Indian and Alaskan Natives all cite race as the primary reason they faced racial issues, according to the researchers. Hispanics reported the highest levels of stress, but nearly all of the other groups reported higher stress levels than the typical American. They also reported that their stress levels have increased in the past year.

Not surprising given the headlines in recent years, the research indicated that more than 3 out of 4 black adults face bias on a daily basis. Approximately 40 percent of black males reported that police have threatened, searched or otherwise unfairly treated them.

In fact, simply anticipating unfair treatment is also stressful, according to the study. Thirty percent of black and/or Hispanic adults who face discrimination at least once a week admitted that they pay special attention to their appearance just to avoid harassment or receive better service. Some even acknowledged that they psychologically prepare for receiving insults from others before they leave home. This hyper vigilance about their looks or mental armor also adds stress.

While bias affects many in select situations, the issue is even broader for those with disabilities. They reported in the survey that discrimination limits them from living “full and productive lives.”

For all groups of Americans who experience unfair treatment or discrimination, it can contribute to being increasingly stressed out and lead to poorer health. Twenty-three percent of the adults surveyed who described their health as fair or poor indicated that they had, on average, higher stress levels, as compared to those who indicated that they were in very good or excellent health.

Written and Edited by Dyanne Weiss

U.S. News & World Report: Two-Thirds of Americans Report Daily Discrimination in Poll
U.S. News & World Report: Health Buzz: Discrimination, Stress and Poor Health Go Hand in Hand
USA Today: Study: Discrimination leads to stress
TIME: Americans Are Getting More Stressed Out, Study Finds

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