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New Report Calls for More Nuance in Research on How Racial Discrimination Impacts Health

Published August 13, 2019

NEW YORK, AUGUST 13, 2019 – According to a recent study published in Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, research that examines racial discrimination without considering the interacting influence of coping and the stress coping process likely leads to biased effect estimates and a distorted understanding of how racism impacts health. This new study underscores the need for future scholarship to explore the question of how and for whom racial discrimination impacts health.

The rates at which African American women experience higher rates of morbidity and mortality due to stress-related health conditions is well known. However, researchers sought to explore the intersection of the superwoman schema — a cultural framework of psycho-social responses which stresses emotional suppression and an obligation to put the needs of others above one’s own — with allostatic load — the accumulated damage on the body when exposed to chronic stress.

Researchers observed significant interaction between racial discrimination and four-fifths of the superwoman schema used by researchers.  Women in the study, who felt obligated to present an image of strength and suppress emotions were protective, while others who felt an overwhelming desire to succeed and obligation to help others exacerbated the health risk associated with experiencing racial discrimination. Researchers concluded that the influence of coping differs by stressor severity and frequency.

The study included 208 subjects, African American women ages 30-50 from five San Francisco Bay area counties. Path analysis was used to test interactions that accounted for the covariance among the superwomen schema subscales using both linear and quadratic models. The full study can be found here.

Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences

Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences is an international science journal published bi-monthly as themed special issues in many areas of science, though predominantly the biological sciences. Each of twenty-four annual issues presents Original Research Articles and/or commissioned Review, Commentary, and Perspective Articles. Ann NY Acad Sci is a hybrid journal available in over 80 countries, is rigorously peer-reviewed, and is ranked among the top multidisciplinary journals worldwide.

About The New York Academy of Sciences

The New York Academy of Sciences is an independent, not-for-profit organization that since 1817 has been committed to advancing science, technology, and society worldwide. With more than 20,000 members in 100 countries around the world, the Academy is creating a global community of science for the benefit of humanity. The Academy's core mission is to advance scientific knowledge, positively impact the major global challenges of society with science-based solutions, and increase the number of scientifically informed individuals in society at large. Please visit us online www.nyas.org. Twitter: @NYASciences

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