Racism and mental health: the African American experience

Ethn Health. 2000 Aug-Nov;5(3-4):243-68. doi: 10.1080/713667453.


This paper provides an overview of United States-based research on the ways in which racism can affect mental health. It describes changes in racial attitudes over time, the persistence of negative racial stereotypes and the ways in which negative beliefs were incorporated into societal policies and institutions. It then reviews the available scientific evidence that suggests that racism can adversely affect mental health status in at least three ways. First, racism in societal institutions can lead to truncated socioeconomic mobility, differential access to desirable resources, and poor living conditions that can adversely affect mental health. Second, experiences of discrimination can induce physiological and psychological reactions that can lead to adverse changes in mental health status. Third, in race-conscious societies, the acceptance of negative cultural stereotypes can lead to unfavorable self-evaluations that have deleterious effects on psychological well-being. Research directions are outlined.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Black or African American / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Mental Health*
  • Prejudice*
  • Self Concept
  • Social Class
  • Stress, Psychological / etiology*
  • United States