Decades after Martin Luther King fought and died for racial equality in America, racism is still very much alive. Now one study says there's yet another disturbed side effect, and that's how racism can affect your health. (In positive mental health news, have you heard about the latest mental health bill called Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act?)
Previous research has found racial discrimination to have negative effects on your mental and physical health (duh, right?), but researchers from Manchester University in the UK specifically looked at how repeated and systemic racism over time could impact your mental health. Using data from Understanding Society, a tool designed to help researchers gather statistics and answers from study participants over time, the scientists examined feedback from ethnic minorities in the UK. This included their experiences being shouted at, being physically attacked, avoiding a place, and feeling unsafe because of their ethnicity.
In the findings published in the American Journal of Public Health, researchers concluded that continued racism has very real mental health effects. They found that minorities who had experienced repeated incidents of racial discrimination were significantly more likely to have mental health problems such as depression and anxiety than minorities who hadn't faced the same repeated incidents. Feeling unsafe and avoiding certain spaces or situations because of ethnicity had the biggest negative impact on mental health.
What's more, Laia Bécares, Ph.D., one of the study authors went on to say in a press release that even "awareness of racial discrimination experienced by others can continue to affect the mental health of ethnic minority people." So if you constantly see discrimination on the news, you could be impacted secondhand.
Previous research has shown that persistent anxiety can cause very real physical symptoms like muscle pain, fatigue, headaches, and insomnia. See your doctor if you're experiencing increased anxiety or symptoms of depression.