Racial bias worsens health outcomes

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A report by the American Psychological Association found that people who live in communities with higher racial bias suffer from more heart disease, mental health issues, and have higher death rates.

“Racism is increasingly recognized as a fundamental driver of health inequities,” said the study’s lead author, Eli Michaels, MPH. The researchers used a variety of sources to measure racial bias at the community level and included tens of millions of data points from large-scale surveys, internet searches and social media. Three studies analyzed Google Trends data on how often users’ searches included a racial slur. Four studies analyzed Twitter data on tweets that included negative sentiments toward people of color. Three studies used data from the General Social Survey, a national survey representative of social and political attitudes in the United States. And four studies used data from Project Implicit, an online tool that assesses people’s implicit biases toward various groups. All data were coded by geographic area.

Studies have looked at the correlation between these different area-level indicators of racial bias and health outcomes among people living in these areas, including death rates, adverse birth outcomes for mothers and infants. , cardiovascular outcomes, mental health, and self-rated overall health. All studies have found an association between levels of racial bias in communities and adverse health outcomes for people of color who live there; four studies also showed a similar association among white residents (two studies showed a weaker but still harmful effect on whites compared to people of color).

“As we see in this review, living in an environment where the general climate is detrimental to people of color is not just bad for racially marginalized groups, but for everyone,” said Amani M. Allen, PhD. , MPH, professor of community health sciences and epidemiology at the University of California, Berkeley School of Public Health and lead author of the study. “Regional racial bias is a social determinant of population health.”

Researchers have several theories about how racial bias affects health outcomes. The first is that at the individual level, living in a community with more bias could increase the number of harmful interactions a person experiences, causing harmful stress. At the community level, more racial bias can lead to less social and emotional support to cushion stressful life events and less political support for policies and programs that could improve the health and well-being of all community members. the community.

This article originally appeared on Medical Economics®.

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