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Black Americans may be more resilient to stress than white Americans

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By Matt Johnson – TheSystemsScientist @TSSNewsMag, Guest Columnist 

White Americans live on average 3.6 years longer than black Americans. If you look only at men, the difference becomes 4.4 years.

As I found in a recent study, the main reason behind this disparity is that black Americans are at higher risk of most chronic medical conditions, such as hypertension, obesity, heart disease, stroke and cancer than other racial and ethnic groups.

However, research suggests minority groups in the U.S. tend to be better off in terms of mental health than white Americans. Depression, anxiety and suicide, for instance, are more common among white Americans than black Americans.

Research, including work I have done with my colleagues at the University of Michigan, demonstrates that although white Americans are, on average, the “healthiest group,” they are also, on average, far less “resilient” than black Americans. It seems that vulnerability is a cost of privilege, and resilience comes as a result of adversity.

What do we mean by resilience?

We call a group “resilient” when it is healthy, given the level of exposures to a wide range of psychosocial risk factors. For instance, psychosocial adversities such as lower educational attainment are associated with increased mortality in general. But the effect is lower in some groups than others, so we would describe the groups where the effect is lower as more resilient.

White Americans seem to be more vulnerable to certain psychosocial risk factors for a wide range of physical and mental health outcomes compared to minority groups. In other words, they are less resilient – less able to successfully adapt to life tasks in the face of highly adverse conditions.

Across several studies using nationally representative samples of Americans, my colleagues and I have consistently found that white Americans are more vulnerable to the effects of risk factors such as low education, anger, depression, feeling of control over own’s life and other psychosocial factors on mortality.

Read the full story here.

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