African Americans' Health Affected by Pervasive Discrimination

African Americans' Health Affected by Pervasive Discrimination

African Americans face pervasive and persistent discrimination in their daily lives that directly affects their health and well-being, a report from National Public Radio, the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation finds.

The first in a series of reports based on a nationally representative survey of nearly thirty-five hundred people across the United States, the report, Discrimination in America: Experiences and Views of African Americans (56 pages, PDF), found that roughly half of African-American respondents reported experiencing institutional racial discrimination when renting or buying a home (45 percent), applying for a job (56 percent), or being considered for a promotion (57 percent). And 60 percent said they or their family members had been stopped or unfairly treated by police because of their race, while 45 percent reported receiving unfair treatment in the court system. Examples of individual discrimination included respondents being subjected to racial slurs (51 percent) or insensitive or offensive comments about their race (52 percent), as well as racial violence (42 percent).

The survey also found that 32 percent of African-American respondents had encountered racial discrimination when going to the doctor or a health clinic — and that 22 percent said they had avoided seeking medical care due to concerns about discrimination. In addition, 31 percent said they had avoided calling the police, even when in need, while 27 percent had avoided driving, using public transportation, seeking medical care, or participating in political or social events to avoid interaction with the police or government authorities.

The series of reports focuses on the discrimination experienced by eight different groups — African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans, Native Americans, white Americans, and LGBTQ adults, men, and women.

"If someone is avoiding seeking medical care out of fear of discrimination, they’re at risk of going undiagnosed for serious conditions — or forgoing management of chronic diseases like diabetes and high blood pressure," said RWJF president and CEO Richard Besser. "But even beyond that, we know that repeated stress from discrimination and racism can actually make some of those conditions more likely in the first place and shorten lives. So, these responses provide an important lens into how discrimination actually impacts people, in the short and long term."

(Photo credit: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation)