Discrimination and Health: The Mediating Role of Daily Stress Processes

Kate A. Leger, Elana M. Gloger, Jessica Maras, Christopher K. Marshburn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

Objective: Exposure to discrimination is consistently linked with worse physical and mental health outcomes. One potential reason is that discriminatory experiences shape the way people interpret and affectively react to daily stressful events which in turn impacts health. The current study examined the role of these two daily psychological stress processes as a pathway linking the longitudinal association between perceived discrimination and health outcomes. Method: Participants in the National Study of Daily Experiences (NSDE), a subset of the Midlife in the United States (MIDUS) study, were followed over three waves spanning 20 years (N = 1,315). Perceptions of lifetime and everyday discrimination were measured by questionnaire at Wave 1; daily assessments of stress, threat appraisals, and negative affect were assessed through 8 days of daily dairies at Wave 2; measures of physical health (chronic conditions, functional limitations, and self-rated physical health) and mental health (depression, anxiety, and self-rated mental health) were assessed at Wave 3. Each wave of data was collected 9–10 years apart. Results: Lifetime and everyday discrimination were associated with worse physical and mental health outcomes 20 years later. Daily threat appraisals and negative affective reactivity to daily stressors mediated the effect of discrimination on physical and mental health. Conclusion: Daily psychological stress processes are a potential mechanism by which exposure to unfair treatment relates to health.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)332-342
Number of pages11
JournalHealth Psychology
Volume41
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest. Since 1995 the MIDUS study has been funded by the following: John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Research Network; National Institute on Aging (P01-AG020166 and U19-AG051426)

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022. American Psychological Association

Keywords

  • Daily stress
  • Discrimination
  • Health
  • Negative affect
  • Stress appraisals

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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