Study Shows That Racial Discrimination Is Increasing Depression Among Black Youth

Photo taken in Indiana, United States

A new study has shown that racial discrimination is having a significant affect on black youth. According to a study in the Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, black teens who experience different forms of racial discrimination have higher experiences of short-term depression. These forms of racial discrimination include individually, vicariously, through teasing, online and offline.

“We were hoping to highlight the causes of racial health inequities for black adolescents,” author Devin English said in this study. “We showed that several forms of discrimination are happening every day, multiple times a day, and that’s contributing to mental health symptoms black adolescents are having in the short term.”

The study surveyed 101 black adolescents between the ages of 13 to 17 in the southeast section of Washington D.C.  For over a period 14 days, they completed surveys about racial discrimination and their mental health.  In total, they reported having 5,606 experiences of racial discrimination, which breaks down to five experiences a day. The more racial discrimination they experienced, the more depressed the teen was.

The most racial discrimination was experienced while online. The study found that black teens mostly witnessed peers experience discrimination while online as well.

“People are emboldened to say more overtly discriminatory things,” he said about the racial comments made online towards black youth. “And there’s not a lot of resources for young people in terms of how to understand and confront these negative messages in online spaces.”

English said one form of discrimination happens between teachers and students through microaggressions. From the mispronunciation of a black student’s name to giving them easier work due to not being confident in their ability to score well.

Another form of discrimination is “racial teasing,” which is when people use humor to convey negative messages. English said this is a common way teens talk about race and they see it as harmless but it is more damaging than they think.

“The present results also underscore the importance of assessing racial teasing, such as jokes about skin tone, hair texture, and U.S. societal abuses of Black people (e.g., police brutality), since these expressions appear to be occurring at a similar frequency and with similar effects as other more general forms of racial discrimination,” English wrote. “These results are particularly meaningful since, although youth and adults (e.g., teachers) often identify teasing as harmless, these experiences may have insidious psychological effects for Black adolescents.”

English also said that his research shows that racial discrimination was not more common among boys than girls like previous research has concluded in the past.

“The present study did not show any significant differences in overall frequency between boys and girls.”

Take a look at the full study here.