New research suggests that African American men can decrease depressive symptoms by increasing their “perceived mastery.” The concept of “perceived mastery” is defined as having a sense of control of one’s own life circumstances. Achieving perceived mastery is qualified with feelings of being able to accomplish anything, whereas feeling pushed around leaves someone with the sense of not having mastered his experiences. Previous research has revealed that the more perceived mastery one has, the better their mental health, especially in African American males. This population is exposed to bigger challenges and discrimination in the workplace and faces inequality of pay. These factors, combined with feeling little or no control over other areas of one’s life, can decrease the mental state of this group of people.
The study, conducted by Daphne Watkins, assistant professor of social work at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor and colleagues, looked at the effect of mastery and of discrimination on symptoms of depression in over 1,000 African American men. The data was collected from the national Survey of American Life (NSAL), and examined in three different age groups, young, men to age 35; middle, men to age 54; and late adulthood, men over age 55. The men were given a series of questions relating to everyday instances of discrimination. They were given several responses to choose from, such as being followed in stores or being treated as if they were lying. The findings revealed that all three age groups considered mastery to be important, and their level of mastery was directly related to the level of their positive mental health. Additionally, those with higher perceived mastery were more insulated from experiencing depressive symptoms. The researchers commented on another significant finding, “Compared to African American men in the young and late adult groups, discrimination remained a statistically significant predictor of depressive symptoms for men in the middle group once mastery was included.”
© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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