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Mailman School of Public Health study examines link between racial discrimination and substance use
Date:8/20/2007

In one of the first studies to focus on the relationship between racial discrimination and health risk behaviors, researchers at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health with colleagues from the Universities of Minnesota, Alabama (Birmingham), and California (San Francisco), and Harvard University found African Americans experiencing racial discrimination were more likely to report current tobacco use or recent alcohol consumption and lifetime use of marijuana and cocaine.

Although racial discrimination was far less common in Whites (38%) than in African Americans (89%), the researchers assessed whether parallel associations exist in Whites and found similar associations with smoking, alcohol, and lifetime use of marijuana and cocaine as they did in African Americans. Thus, substance use may be an unhealthy coping response to perceived unfair treatment for some individuals regardless of their race/ethnicity. However, it is worth noting that racial discrimination may be a different phenomenon for African Americans than it is for Whites, and thus, lead to very different consequences, said Luisa N. Borrell, DDS, PhD, of the Mailman School of Public Healths Department of Epidemiology and principal investigator of the study.

African Americans experiencing racial discrimination also reported having more education, higher income, and a stronger social network than those reporting no racial discrimination. In contrast to African Americans, Whites reporting racial discrimination reported less education and lower income than did those who reported none. Similar to African Americans, Whites reporting any discrimination were more likely to report less control of their life, more anger, less emotional support, and more negative interactions than did their counterparts reporting none.

We found that African Americans reporting discrimination in three or more domains in both years had higher levels of education and income than did t
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Contact: Stephanie Berger
sb2247@columbia.edu
212-305-5635
Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health
Source:Eurekalert

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