Discrimination associated with increased depression

Regular experience of discrimination increases the risk of depression and having suicidal thoughts, according to a new study published in JAMA psychiatry. Health data and survey results of more than 60,000 people in the United States revealed an association between discrimination and depression, particularly among Black, Latino, 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 dealt a severe blow to our collective mental health. During this same period, hate crimes and racist rhetoric against Asians increased and the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor inspired a mass social movement for racial justice. It was a time when the pandemic and the importance of racism converged.

That convergence had a pronounced effect on the mental health of Black Americans, says study author Jordan W. Smoller, MD, associate chief of research at Massachusetts General Hospital and a professor at Harvard Medical School.

“There was a direct or dose-response relationship between the amount of discrimination they reported they experienced and the likelihood of having moderate to severe depressive symptoms or suicidal thoughts,” he says. This association between discrimination and depression was particularly strong when race, ancestry or national origin was the reason for the discrimination, as opposed to age or sex.

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