University Study Finds That Bottling Up Emotions Can Lead to Depression Among Black Men

A new study by Wizdom Powell Hammond of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, finds that Black men who hold back their emotions when confronted with racial discrimination are more likely to become depressed.

Dr. Hammond’s research focused on the persistence of everyday racism. “It chips away at people’s sense of humanity and very likely at their hope and optimism,” Hammond said. “We know these daily hassles have consequences for men’s mental health, but we don’t know why some men experience depression while others do not.”

Dr. Hammond, who is an assistant professor of health behavior at UNC’s Gillings School of Global Public Health, surveyed 674 African American men in four regions of the United States. She found that everyday racial discrimination was associated with depression across all age groups. Younger men (aged under 40) were more depressed, experienced more discrimination, and had a stronger allegiance to norms encouraging them to restrict their emotions than men over 40 years old. Furthermore, some men who embraced norms encouraging more self-reliance reported less depression.

“We know that traditional role expectations are that men will restrict their emotions – or ‘take stress like a man,’” said Hammond. “However, the more tightly some men cling to these traditional role norms, the more likely they are to be depressed.”

Dr. Hammond is a graduate of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City. She holds a master’s degree, a master of public health degree, and a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan.

The study, “Taking It Like a Man: Masculine Role Norms as Moderators of the Racial Discrimination-Depressive Symptoms Association Among African American Men, was published on the website of the American Journal of Public Health. The article is available here.

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