It goes like this. On her walk into work, a driver wolf-whistles at her. She sits in a meeting, and gets interrupted when she speaks. She is also told, with a hint of surprise, that she’s pretty articulate. She vents on social media, and is told by strangers to go back to the kitchen. She frowns at this—and is told to smile more.
These little hits of everyday discrimination are the daily realities for many women and people of color, says Danielle Beatty Moody, a psychology professor at University of Maryland, Baltimore County. They are indignities so ostensibly subtle that people who don’t experience them firsthand often think nothing of them. But these slivers of “disdain, distance, and disrespect” add up, over days and years. “It’s like a thousand tiny cuts,” Beatty Moody says
In a new study, she and her colleagues have found more evidence that these psychological cuts have real physiological consequences. As first reported by the journalist Emily Willingham, the team studied a racially diverse group of 2,180 American women, and found that those who regularly experienced everyday discrimination ended up with higher blood pressure a decade later.
There’s already a large body of work that links everyday discrimination—racism, mainly—to a variety of mental and physical health problems, including disturbed sleep, unhealthy weight, and cardiovascular symptoms. But many of these studies are cross-sectional—that is, they compare people’s current experiences to their current health. They can’t say if the former caused the latter, because they are just momentary snapshots. To get stronger evidence, researchers need prospective studies, which track the health of volunteers over time.
One such study, known as SWAN, began in 1994 as an attempt to learn more about the health of middle-aged American women. Its 3,300 volunteers, who came from diverse racial groups and were between the ages of 42 and 52, turned up for extensive annual check-ups to monitor their health for more than two decades. And as part of that, they also answered questions about their experiences of everyday discrimination.
Those questions were developed by David Williams from Harvard University to capture what he calls “the ways in which the dignity and the respect of people who society does not value is chipped away on a daily basis.” They ask how often people are insulted, threatened, or harassed in their day-to-day life; how often they’re perceived …read more
Source:: The Atlantic – Science