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Perceived discrimination, racial centrality and mental health: Community findings from the Ypsilanti everyday stress (YES) and health study

Rashid Njai, MPH, Health Behavior and Health Education/School of Public Health, University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, 109 S. Observatory, SPH II, 5th Floor, Ann Arbor, MI 48109, 734-972-5853, rnjai@umich.edu and David Williams, PhD, Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan, 426 Thompson St., Ann Arbor, MI 48106-1248.

This study explored relationships between racial centrality, perceived discrimination, and life satisfaction and depressive symptoms in a community sample of African American (n = 49) and White (n = 49) participants from the Ypsilanti Everyday Stress (YES) and Health study. There were no significant differences in depressive symptoms and life satisfaction between African Americans and Whites. The sample exhibited relatively high depressive symptoms (mean CES-D score = 21). Respondents reported on five aspects of perceived discrimination (education, employment, housing, police/courts, other services) and scores were summed to determine total perceptions of discrimination. Results showed that African Americans were significantly more likely to perceive overall racial discrimination as well as employment based discrimination than Whites. Findings also showed significant racial differences in racial centrality, i.e. how one defines themselves with respect to race (Sellers, 1997), with African Americans indicating on average that race was more important to them than it was for Whites. African Americans affirming the importance of race in their lives were positively related to reporting more accounts of racial discrimination. Having a romantic partner was negatively related to perceptions of discrimination in the workforce for African Americans. For Whites, being younger and a man were positively related to racial identity importance. Research implications include the illumination of racial identity as an important social characteristic to modify the stressful effects of racial discrimination on mental health.

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the session, the participant will be able to

Presenting author's disclosure statement:
I do not have any significant financial interest/arrangement or affiliation with any organization/institution whose products or services are being discussed in this session.

Race, Culture, Behavior and the Environment: A National Debate on Causes of Health Disparities

The 132nd Annual Meeting (November 6-10, 2004) of APHA