Feeling judged because of your race could have a negative impact on your physical health, a new study finds.
A team of researchers studied 1,574 residents of Baltimore as part of the Healthy Aging in Neighborhoods of Diversity across the Life Span study and found that 20% of the subjects reported feeling that they had been racially discriminated against “a lot.”
Even after the researchers adjusted the results for race, this group had higher systolic blood pressure than those who perceived only a little discrimination.
Over a five-year followup, the group who felt more racial discrimination also tended to have greater decline in kidney function. When the researchers, co-led by Deidra C. Crews, MD, assistant professor of medicine and chair of the diversity council at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, adjusted for age and lifestyle factors, the effect stayed constant for African-American women.
“Psychosocial stressors could potentially have an effect on kidney function decline through a number of hormonal pathways,” Dr. Crews said. The release of stress hormones can lead to an increase in blood pressure, and high blood pressure is one of the leading causes of kidney disease.
This isn’t the first time that perceived racial discrimination has been linked to chronic diseases: a 2011 study found that lifetime discrimination was linked to higher rates of hypertension.