163623 Coping with racial stress: A public health issue

Monday, November 5, 2007: 1:30 PM

Cheryl Armstead, MS(R), PhD , Department of Psychology, South Carolina Cancer Prevention and Control Progrm, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC
Eugena Kenyatta Griffin, MA , Clinical-Community Psychology, Ph.D. Program, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC
Background and Objectives

Despite the end of legally-imposed segregation and the emergence of improved opportunities for African Americans (AA), studies document the persistence of discrimination. Racial discrimination remains an important public health issue which effects policy formation, mental health services delivery, and community prevention. The stress paradigm helps us to bridge the gap between research and application. Research suggests that the psychological and physical consequences of racial discrimination are similar to other chronic stressors. The objectives of the study were: 1) To carry out a preliminary evaluation of the emotional and mental health correlates of perceived racism and 2) To delineate the frequency of yearly and lifetime racism among AA university students.


289 AA students (124 male and 155 female) Perceived Racism Scale, a Health Status Questionnaire, the SCL-90-R, the Trait Anxiety Inventory, and the Cook and Medley Hostility Scale. Responses were coded and scored. Scale scores were divided into tertile groups for analysis.


3X3 ANCOVAs indicated that respondents reporting the highest levels of yearly racism had significantly higher anxiety and hostility symptoms. Respondents reporting the highest levels of lifetime racism had significantly greater depressive and global distress symptomology.


Study findings support the notion that exposure to racism impacts emotional adjustment, even during the college years. This study also suggests that to understand racism's influence on emotional adjustment or mental health we must investigate the effects of racism as a cumulative set of experiences occurring over a lifetime. Cultural and developmental interpretations of the findings are proposed. Our hope is that this study will facilitate our understanding of the variety of experiences of racism among AAs. This resarch will move us closer to reducing racism's prevalence and its potentially untoward effects on mental health. Researchers, health providers, and institutions must be competent in understanding the myriad of coping responses to racial stress to produce a significant public health impact.

Learning Objectives:
Describe how coping with racism may affect the mental health of young African American men and women in South Carolina. Describe racial stress theory. Articulate potential maladaptive and adaptive coping mechanisms to racial stress. Describe the theoretical concerns related to viewing African American racial stress coping as solely maladaptive. Describe the unmet need for sociocultural translational research for African American communities. Summarize intra-cultural issues pertaining to racism that providers should discuss during counseling of African American men and women.

Keywords: African American, Mental Health

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Any relevant financial relationships? No
Any institutionally-contracted trials related to this submission?

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.