Exposure to racism linked to higher rates of depression, ADHD in children
Children who experienced racial discrimination were more likely to exhibit anxiety and depression, as well as an increased risk for attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, according to research presented at the 2017 Pediatric Academic Societies Meeting.
“In this study, we found that perceived racial discrimination was linked to decreased reports of excellent child health across all racial and ethnic groups,” Ashaunta Anderson, MD, MPH, lead author and assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of California, Riverside, told Infectious Diseases in Children. “It also appeared for minority children that lower socioeconomic status was linked to decreased reports of excellent child health.”
Researchers designed this study to assess the connection between perceived racial discrimination and children’s health, and observe how mental health related to racial discrimination could potentially impact other health outcomes.
To meet these objectives, the researchers used data from 95,677 responses to the 2011-2012 National Survey of Children’s Health. They conducted a propensity score analysis that assessed differences between those exposed and not exposed to discrimination, with considerations taken for race and ethnicity, age, sex, socioeconomic status, family structure and primary household language.
These data were also used for structural equation modeling, which inspected the effect of mental health as a moderator of health outcomes when discrimination is experienced.
A 5.4% decrease was demonstrated in the health of those who were considered to have excellent health when they experienced racial discrimination. Furthermore, children’s risk for ADHD increased by 3.2% when exposed to the same environment, with a notable increase in Hispanic children. White children raised in families with high socioeconomic status faced larger decreases in general health when exposed to racism, and black children of the same status were more likely to develop ADHD.
When considering mental health as a mediator, children who were part of a minority group experienced higher rates of racial discrimination and were more likely to develop anxiety or depression. Those who experienced anxiety and depression associated with racial discrimination also tended to have worse general health outcomes and were more likely to have ADHD.
“Our findings suggest that racial discrimination contributes to race-based disparities in child health,” Anderson said in a press release. She also suggested in this release that “coordinated efforts are needed to support children affected by discrimination with developmentally appropriate coping strategies and systems of care.” —by Katherine Bortz.
Adesman A, et al. Abstract. Presented at: The Pediatric Academic Societies Meeting; May 6-9, 2017; San Francisco, CA.
Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.