Racial Discrimination, Educational Attainment, and Biological Dysregulation Among Midlife African American Women

Racial Discrimination, Educational Attainment, and Biological Dysregulation Among Midlife African American Women

While exposure to racial discrimination is linked to higher risk of chronic disease in African-American women, higher educational attainment may help mitigate its negative effects, a study by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley finds. Published in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology, the report, Racial Discrimination, Educational Attainment, and Biological Dysregulation Among Midlife African American Women, examined the links between self-reported experience of racial discrimination and allostatic load — factors such as high blood pressure and high blood sugar that collectively function as a measure of chronic physiologic stress, itself a predictor of chronic illnesses such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and cancer. The study found that among African-American women with a high school diploma or less, those who said they experienced a high or very high level of racial discrimination in finding housing or employment, at work or in school, applying for a bank loan or mortgage, and in healthcare settings had much higher allostatic loads. In contrast, more educated women experiencing high levels of racial discrimination had lower allostatic loads than those who had experienced moderate or low levels of discrimination — which researchers attribute in part to differences in how the women process the racial discrimination they had experienced. Funded by UC Berkeley, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the National Institutes of Health, the study also found the relationship between racial discrimination and allostatic load varied by economic status, and that those trends were not as dramatic as they were for educational level.