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  The Minority/ Black Health Blog  

Monday, July 1, 2013

Can Racism Make You Physically Sick?

Racism Makes Me Sick

Although the U.S. has come a long way in preventing racism in housing, hiring, the workplace, and other areas, racism still exists, unfortunately. Denying basic human rights and freedoms in any area of life because of race, color, descent, or national or ethnic origin can have a devastating effect on the targeted individuals.

Racism is a stressor than can affect health in three ways: mental, behavioral, and physical.

Discrimination can cause depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem, especially in adolescents and younger children, according to the National Institute of Health. Even children who worry about discrimination but have not yet been discriminated against will experience anxiety and self-esteem problems.

Behavioral problems can range from withdrawal to anger and hostility. Other behaviors exhibited includes the increased use of alcohol, tobacco and drugs, according to a study of African-American adolescents. Children age 10-12 who become aware of discrimination are more likely to have drug problems five years later that directly relate to discrimination.

Adolescents, especially, are likely to develop somatic (physical) complaints of illnesses, such as stomach aches. In adults, studies have found associations with women who suffered long-term racism and lower birth weight in their children. The stress of racism has also been reported to have an effect on blood pressure.

Among those who suffered from racism, the health issues were found to be less among those who had a coping system or a strong support network. This is important for everyone, but especially for those who become victims of racism. It is particularly important for parents to teach their children that they should be proud of who they are and where they came from, and they should respect and value differences in all people.

Racism itself is an illness that divides people, ruins lives and makes no sense.
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