National Institute on Aging

University Study Links Racial Discrimination to Mental Health Problems

Trenette_Clark_hrA new study led by Trenette Clark, an assistant professor of social work at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, finds that African Americans and Caribbean-born Blacks who experience discrimination in the United States are at a substantially higher risk for anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and other mental disorders.

The study surveyed more than 4,400 Blacks between the ages of 18 and 65. Some 83 percent of all respondents said they had experienced some type of discrimination over the past 12 months. Half of all respondents said they experienced discrimination several times and 14 percent said they had experienced discrimination frequently. Those who experienced discrimination several times or frequently were found to be more likely to suffer from mental health and substance abuse problems.

“Perceived discrimination is an often overlooked but major source of health-related stress, with effects comparable to other major stressors such as the death of a loved one or the loss of a job,” Dr. Clark said. “Our study shows that the risk for mental health and behavioral disorders varies according to the types and frequency of discriminatory experiences.”

Dr. Clark has been on the faculty at the University of North Carolina since 2010. She is a magna cum laude graduate of Elizabeth City State University in North Carolina. Dr. Clark earned a master of social work degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a Ph.D. from Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond.

The study, “Everyday Discrimination and Mood and Substance Use Disorders: A Latent Profile Analysis With African Americans and Caribbean Blacks,” was published in journal Addictive Behaviors. It may be accessed here. Scholars from the University of Texas at Austin, Duke University, and Saint Louis University participated in the study.


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