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Skin color matters when it comes to Canadians' health: UBC study
Date:10/12/2011

A new University of British Columbia study finds that Black Canadians with darker skin are more likely to report poorer health than Black Canadians with lighter skin. The study also suggests that a mismatched racial identity can negatively affect health.

The study, published online in the current issue of Social Science & Medicine journal, provides the first Canadian evidence of the health effects of "colourism," discrimination targeted more strongly at darker-skinned than lighter-skinned people of colour, says the author.

Researchers surveyed the self-reported racial identities -- Asian, Black, South Asian and White -- of nearly 1,500 participants from Vancouver and Toronto across four key health indicators: high blood pressure, depression, mental health and overall health.

While some findings support existing research -- that Black Canadians are more likely than others to report high blood pressure and that Asian Canadians are most likely to report poorer mental health -- the study found that Black Canadians with darker skin were as much as four times more likely than Black Canadians with lighter skin to report poor overall health.

Although U.S. scholars have researched the wide-ranging effects of colourism for African Americans, including effects on health, the UBC study's author Prof. Gerry Veenstra, Dept. of Sociology, says this is the first study to suggest that colourism can affect the health of Canadians as well.

"The findings indicate that, for Black Canadians, levels of discrimination can depend on the relative darkness or lightness of their skin," says Veenstra. "For health researchers and policymakers, this means that the broad racial classifications typically used by health researchers may actually underestimate the magnitude of racial health inequalities in this country."

"This is a first step to understanding colourism's manifestations in Canada and the degree to which and for whom it affects
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Contact: Basil Waugh
basil.waugh@ubc.ca
604-822-2048
University of British Columbia
Source:Eurekalert

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