Discrimination associated with increased depression

Regularly experiencing discrimination increases the risk of depression and suicidal thoughts, according to a new study published in JAMA Psychiatry. Health data and results from a survey of more than 60,000 people in the United States revealed a link between discrimination and depression, particularly among blacks, Hispanics and Asian Americans, during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It is well established that the drastic changes brought about by the pandemic, such as physical distancing and isolation, have taken a toll on our collective mental health. During this same period, hate crimes and racist rhetoric against Asians increased, and the murders of George Floyd and Breona Taylor inspired a massive social movement for racial justice. It was a time when the pandemic and the salience of racism converged.

This convergence has had a marked effect on the mental health of Americans of color, says study author Jordan W. Smoller, MD, associate director of research at Massachusetts General Hospital and professor at Harvard Medical School.

“There is a direct or dose-response relationship between the amount of discrimination they report experiencing and the likelihood of having moderate to severe depressive symptoms or suicidal thoughts,” he says. This association between discrimination and depression is particularly strong when the cause of discrimination is race, ancestry, or national origin, as opposed to age or gender.

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