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Study: Black Women Exposed to Racism More Likely to Experience Asthma Attacks

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by Liku Zelleke

Without a doubt, being confronted with racism can have adverse psychological effects on the victim. It has been known that long term exposure to racist attitudes can lead to psyche alteration, which in turn can transform into [sometimes violent] physical reactions caused as a result of unchecked or uncontrolled emotions like humiliation, rage and depression.

But, a new study has shown that African-American women who experience racism could actually become asthmatic.

According to the research done by Boston University researchers, although asthma has reached epidemic proportions in the United States, African-Americans fare worse than whites on all measures of asthma morbidity.

The research was conducted as part of the university’s Black Women’s Health Study (BWHS) and was published by the American College of Chest Physicians.

It shows that in some black women the stress from racism will manifest itself via the immune system and airways. The research was done on 38,142 African-American women participants of the BWHS between 1997 and 2011.

In 1997 and 2009 the women provided information on their experiences of “everyday” racism (e.g. poor service in stores) and “lifetime” racism (discrimination on the job, in housing, by police etc.).

According to the results, as the experiences of everyday and lifetime racism increased, so too did the incidence of adult-onset asthma. Compared to the lowest, the women in the highest experiences showed a 45 percent increase of the incidences.

Also, the incidence of asthma increased even more in the women who had encountered the highest rate of everyday racism, indicating that consistent experiences of racism over a period of time also caused the illness.

Talking about the research and its result, the lead researcher, Dr. Patricia Coogan, said that the stress that comes from being faced with racism had the potential to undermine the health of Black women.

She also said, “Racism is a significant stressor in the lives of African-American women, and our results contribute to a growing body of evidence indicating that experiences of racism can have adverse effects on health.”