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J Natl Med Assoc. 2003 June; 95(6): 450–460.
PMCID: PMC2594553

Experiences of racist events are associated with negative health consequences for African American women.


This study investigated whether experiences of racist events were related to psychological distress, negative health behaviors, and health problems. Participants were 71 African American women (mean age 44.4) who were recruited from an urban cancer-screening clinic as part of a larger longitudinal study on familial risk of breast cancer. Participants completed three study assessments, approximately one month apart, and data were collected via self-report. Correlational analyses revealed that past year and lifetime racism were both related to psychological distress. Among smokers and drinkers, past year racism was positively correlated with number of cigarettes and drinks consumed. Lifetime racism was negatively related to perceived health, and positively related to lifetime history of physical disease and frequency of recent common colds. Analyses using a general linear model revealed that these relationships were largely unaccounted for by other variables. In addition, demographic variables such as income and education were not related to experiences of racism. The results suggest that racism can be detrimental to African American's well being and should be investigated in health disparities research.

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