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Repeated racist attacks may damage mental health: study

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London: People who repeatedly face racial discrimination may have increased mental health problems, a new study has found, reports PTI. 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, researchers said.

The new study looked 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. “Studies that assess the association between racial discrimination and health, or examine exposure at a certain point in time, underestimate the harm of racial discrimination on the mental health of ethnic minority people and its contribution to ethnic inequalities in health,” said Laia Becares from University of Manchester in the UK.

In the study, increased mental health problems were shown to be significantly higher among racial minorities who had 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. “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,” said Becares.

The research used the ethnicity sample of Understanding Society which is a dataset used to examine research questions with participants over time. This allowed 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.