You don’t have to be surprised when you see people or even xenophobians behave heartlessly. Their mental health has been impaired due to the constant exposure of their minds to the terrains of racism. Several studies have already linked racial discrimination to poor mental and physical health but no study has ever studied the impact numerous attacks over time have on a person’s mental health.
The study, published by Dr Laia Becares and colleagues in the American Journal of Public Health, was looking at the accumulation of experiences of racial attacks over time including being shouted at, being physically attacked, avoiding a place, or feeling unsafe because of one’s ethnicity.
In this research increased mental health problems were shown to be significantly higher among racial minorities who’d experienced repeated incidents of racial discrimination, when compared to ethnic minorities who did not report any experience of racism.
The study also found it was the fear of avoiding spaces and feeling unsafe due to racial discrimination that had the biggest cumulative effect on the mental health of ethnic minorities.
Dr Becares said: “This finding would suggest that previous exposure to racial discrimination over the life course, or awareness of racial discrimination experienced by others, can continue to affect the mental health of ethnic minority people, even after the initial exposure to racial discrimination.”
The research used the ethnicity sample of Understanding Society which is a dataset used to examine research questions with participants over time — this allowed the researchers to add up all experiences of racial discrimination that people have experienced across five years to find out whether these were associated with changes in mental health.
Dr Becares added: “Our research highlights just how harmful racial discrimination is for the health of ethnic minorities. We see how the more racism ethnic minority people experience, the more psychological distress they suffer from.