Study Proves the Obvious: Racism Impacts Children’s Health

Children exposed to racism are more likely to suffer from anxiety, depression and ADHD.SourceA new study done by University of California researchers has concluded that children who have exposure to racism have a higher prevalence with health issues like anxiety, depression and ADHD.

Dr. Ashaunta Anderson is a pediatrics professor at the University of California Riverside’s School of Medicine, and yesterday, presented the results from a study, “The Detrimental Influence of Racial Discrimination in the United States,” to the Pediatric Academic Societies. Dr. Anderson is the lead researcher and used data from the National Survey on Children’s Health in years 2011-2012.

She found that based on survey data from nearly 100,000 children, exposure to racism in children correlated to those children having higher incidences of anxiety, depression and ADHD when compared to peers without the same racism exposures.

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The survey questions asked whether or not children were subjected to some form of racism and parents who responded positively tended to be 5.4 percent less likely to answer that their child had excellent health. As well, those parents were also 3.2 percent more likely to report that their child suffered from ADHD.

Dr. Anderson said to embark on a traditional double-blind study for a complex issue like the physiological effects of racism was nearly impossible, and so she and her team used propensity score matching. The children of the study received scores based on their likelihood of racial discrimination experience, and then were separated further on the basis of those who reported that they did actually have racism experiences and those who did not.

The team found that the difference in overall health between those two groups was significant enough to be able to show a correlation with racism experience impacting health. While Dr. Anderson says that it obviously doesn’t allow 100 percent conclusive ability, it is the most close to a double-blind study that scientists can actually achieve, and is reliable enough to be taken into consideration.

Dr. Anderson says that she hopes the data will simply confirm what doctors already suspect — that racial discrimination adversely affects the health of children. She believes that the data results can be a call to action for parents everywhere to protect our children from the harmful effects of racism.

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According to Anderson, the data suggested that minority children in lower socioeconomic groups were most affected, but she also found that upper-income white children who claimed they’d suffered incidents of discrimination also had adverse health impacts. Anderson says this suggests that the effects of discrimination are pervasive across socioeconomic groups.

This research is similar to previous work Dr. Anderson has conducted and which looked at racial socialization. While her newest work is not the first that found a connection between health and racism, it is the first that has also found effects on white children in higher socioeconomic groups who are possibly targeted because of things like their religion or immigration status.

Those are just possible theories, she asserts, and says she and her group are looking more into explanations.


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