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Does Discrimination Cause Mental Health Problems from Stress?

January 29th, 2016

Discrimination is never pleasant and it can result in stress, but can it actually harm your mental health? According to a new research study from the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health and the Department of Epidemiology at UCLA the answer could be yes. Dr. Vickie Mays, a professor at the School of Health, explained “We now have decades of research showing that when people are chronically treated differently, unfairly or badly, it can have effects ranging from low self-esteem to a higher risk for developing stress-related disorders such as anxiety and depression.” Mays continued by stating “We know that when people have a psychiatric disorder, it’s not good for any of us. For example, it can affect parenting — a depressed mom might not be able to interact with her child in a way that best promotes that child’s development, leaving the child more vulnerable to certain behavioral disorders. In that sense, we all suffer from the effects of discrimination.”

Department of Community Health Sciences professor Dr. Gilbert Gee performed an earlier study on mental health, discrimination, and stress which also demonstrated similar findings and showed the mental health impact that discrimination can have. According to Dr. Gee “Much of the research has focused on symptoms of sadness and anxiety resulting from the mistreatment, and that’s very important, but we wanted to look at clinical outcomes. If you don’t get a job and you’re left to wonder whether it had to do with your race or gender, that can have an impact on your mental health.”

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