Racial discrimination, response to unfair treatment, and depressive symptoms among pregnant black and African American women in the United States

Ann Epidemiol. 2012 Dec;22(12):840-6. doi: 10.1016/j.annepidem.2012.10.001. Epub 2012 Nov 2.


Purpose: To assess the association between self-reported racial discrimination and prenatal depressive symptoms among black women.

Methods: Our study population consisted of two cohorts of pregnant women: the Asthma Coalition on Community, Environment, and Social Stress project (ACCESS) and Project Viva. We measured self-reported racial discrimination among black women using a modified Experiences of Discrimination scale (score 0-8). We assessed elevated depressive symptoms (EDS) with the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (≥13 on a 0-30 scale).

Results: Fifty-four percent of ACCESS and 78% of Viva participants reported experiencing racial discrimination. After adjusting for age, marital status, income, education, and nativity, a 1-U increment in Experiences of Discrimination score was associated with 48% increased odds of EDS (odds ratio, 1.48; 95% confidence interval, 1.24-1.76) for ACCESS participants but was not significantly associated among Viva participants (odds ratio, 1.12; 95% confidence interval, 0.92-1.37). In both cohorts, responding to unfair treatment by talking to others was associated with the lowest odds of EDS.

Conclusions: Our findings suggest that higher levels of perceived racial discrimination may increase depressive symptoms during pregnancy among U.S. black women. Interventions involving talking to others may aid in reducing the risk of depressive symptoms among black women experiencing higher levels of racial discrimination.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Black People / ethnology
  • Black People / psychology*
  • Black People / statistics & numerical data
  • Black or African American / psychology*
  • Black or African American / statistics & numerical data
  • Cohort Studies
  • Depression / ethnology*
  • Depression / etiology
  • Depression / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Logistic Models
  • Massachusetts / epidemiology
  • Mental Health / ethnology*
  • Pregnancy
  • Prejudice*
  • Prenatal Care
  • Prevalence
  • Racism / psychology*
  • Self Report
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult