People who are discriminated against can suffer significant negative consequences. General well-being, self-esteem, self-worth, and social relations can be severely impacted as a result of discrimination. But recognizing exactly how perceived discrimination affects an individual is much less understood. Previous research has suggested that perceived discrimination can lead to mental health problems such as increased stress, depression, and anxiety. In an effort to better comprehend the exact relationship between perceived discrimination and psychological health, Que-Lam Huynh of the Department of Psychology at California State University recently led a study that examined the effects of this type of prejudice on Latin American participants.
Past studies have demonstrated that African-Americans report varying levels of stress relative to the context of the discrimination they perceive. Overall, research indicates that discrimination in professional settings is more stressful than discrimination in social settings. Additionally, studies have provided mixed results on how the effects of discrimination vary based on severity and frequency. To clarify these influences, Huynh analyzed data from 168 Latino individuals, who reported the severity and frequency of perceived discrimination. The study also evaluated the distress levels, specifically anxiety and depression, of the participants.
The findings revealed that the higher the frequency of perceived discrimination, the higher the levels of reported anxiety and depression in the participants. The results also showed that participants who did experience extreme discrimination, although infrequently, were equally adversely affected. The research team was able to determine that, overall, the frequency of less stressful discrimination was more detrimental to the participants’ psychological well-being than less frequent high-stress discrimination experiences. Huynh believes these findings will help clinicians treating cultural minorities who struggle with mental health problems resulting from perceived discrimination. Huynh said, “Thus, it is important for researchers to examine both perceived frequency and perceived stressfulness, as the interplay between these two dimensions of discrimination has meaningful relations with psychological adjustment.”
Huynh, Q.-L., Devos, T., Dunbar, C. M. The Psychological Costs of Painless but Recurring Experiences of Racial Discrimination. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology 18.1 (2012): 26-34. Print.
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