There has been a lot of research done in the last fifteen years on the consequences of racism on the health of African Americans and other minorities in the United States. More than a hundred studies have been published revealing the negative impacts of prejudice on African American men, women, and children’s health. Regrettably, the results have supplied us with worrying information.
The study reveals that racism directly impacts a person’s physical health and mental health. Furthermore, research suggests many serious reasons, one of which is inferior health care for blacks.
Furthermore, several studies have linked health and mental difficulties in various ways, including stress as a cause of heart disease, cardiovascular disorders, and issues related to high blood pressure. Regardless of the health or mental problem, research reveals a direct correlation between racism and health and mental disorders among African Americans in the United States.
Accounting for almost 12% of the population of the United States, African Americans have a much greater death rate than any other race. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s results, the average lifespan of the Caucasian population in the United States is over five and a half years longer than that of the African American population. Furthermore, according to the same source, the death rate from heart disease was 31% higher in black Americans than in white Americans (CDC, 2005).
A disturbing fact revealed by the extensive study is that African Americans have a higher risk of dying from heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and high blood pressure than any other racial group in the US. This fact appears unrelated to socioeconomic status, as more affluent black Americans are also at risk. Of course, the question is why.
Stress is the Most Common Cause
A new focus, though, has arisen. Stress is one of the most common causes. According to studies, repeated exposure to racism causes a degree of tension in African Americans, making them vulnerable to health issues such as heart disease and high blood pressure. People who cope with tremendous stress daily by exerting “prodigious physical and mental effort,” according to early research by Sherman James of Duke University, expose themselves to potentially disastrous health issues. According to James’ study, black people pay a physical price, with higher blood pressure and hypertension (James, 1994). James began his investigation in the early 1980s, indicating that the problem has been growing over time Racism serves as the spark that sets off the stress bomb. This sets off a chain reaction that results in chronic or recurring problems, including an increased heart rate, hypertension, and lowered immunity, to mention a few. Chronic stress can also lead to other issues such as poor food habits, smoking, and alcohol consumption. These factors alone can cause significant health issues.
A Harvard School of Public Health study discovered that race-related stress is not only responsible for a wide range of African American health conditions such as high blood pressure but that internalizing the stress makes it much worse. The study found a significant increase in heart rate and blood pressure in a group of African American participants who were exposed to racial stimuli. Furthermore, the participants’ recovery time was significantly longer (Sternthal, 2011). This research concludes that African Americans who are forced to cope with this type of stimulation for the rest of their lives will almost probably prolong the effects.
High Level of Anxiety and Depression
Participants in a Cornell University study led by Professor Anthony Ong reported high levels of anxiety and depression after interactions with racist behavior (Ong, 2008). The effects, like those shown in the St. John study, are long-lasting. According to the study, excessive and repeated prejudice tends to build up and spill over into other aspects of daily life, such as families, friends, and wellness (Ong, 2008).
The lack of health insurance is worsening the dilemma for African Americans. According to statistics, over 38 million Americans are uninsured, with African Americans accounting for a more significant proportion of the uninsured. This is due to several factors. For starters, in the United States, a lot of health insurance coverage is linked to employment. The historically more significant unemployment rate of African Americans than white Americans and overall economic concerns contribute to a lack of medical insurance in the black population. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, there is a vast disparity between African Americans who have health insurance and their Caucasian counterparts (CDC, 2008).
Poverty also plays a significant role
For African Americans, poverty creates a two-fold difficulty. People in extremely poor metropolitan areas in the United States have a greater premature death rate than people in developing countries throughout the world. This can be due to prejudice, a poor lifestyle, and the ongoing danger of violence. Faced with these challenges daily, African Americans living in poverty in the United States experience more tremendous stress and anxiety due to a sense of continuous discomfort. This frequently leads to an increased risk of severe physical and mental problems.
Differences in socioeconomic status between white and black Americans can cause mental agony among poor African Americans. According to studies, people living in poverty and low-income areas experience “abuse, criminality, fear of crime, overcrowding, noise, and population turnover” regularly (Williams, 2010, p. 251).
Poverty has a significant impact on African Americans’ access to high-quality health care. As poverty levels rise, so does the demand for high-quality health care. According to statistics, about nine million African Americans were poor in 2004, increasing over 250,000 from the preceding two years (USCB, 2005). Poverty rates among African Americans are still twice as high as the national average. These realities worsen another issue: access to and the quality of available health care.
Based on the difficulties stated above and their impact on African Americans’ health, this group is more likely to require medical attention at some point. A lack of adequate treatments has been the focus of several research studies that have generated significant outcomes. AIDS, cardiovascular disease, heart illness, internal medicine, mental health, and other studies have all discovered differences in the quality of attention paid and treatments provided. Even though this fact can be attributed to various circumstances, race has a significant role.
Furthermore, African American infants are 2.4 times more likely than white infants to die in their first year (Jackson, 2007). Some African American mothers expressed their fear of having a black male child because they are treated in this nation, adding stress to an already stressful situation. According to research by Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, black mothers who “deliver low-weight, premature newborns have a twofold greater lifetime exposure to racial prejudice than African American women who have full-term, normal-weight babies” (Collins, 2009, p. 65). Racism was identified as a substantial health concern by the women.
And – most notably, the African American community’s extreme lack of health insurance has been related to severe health concerns in men, women, and children. Based on the data collected, it appears that any plan to enhance African American health must involve plans to fight racism in all of its forms. Though additional research is needed in these areas, early signs show that this research can influence how we think about race and health. It has the potential to identify racism as a serious public health issue.