Cumulative Effect of Racial Discrimination on the Mental Health of Ethnic Minorities in the United Kingdom

Am J Public Health. 2016 Jul;106(7):1294-300. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2016.303121. Epub 2016 Apr 14.


Objectives: To examine the longitudinal association between cumulative exposure to racial discrimination and changes in the mental health of ethnic minority people.

Methods: We used data from 4 waves (2009-2013) of the UK Household Longitudinal Study, a longitudinal household panel survey of approximately 40 000 households, including an ethnic minority boost sample of approximately 4000 households.

Results: Ethnic minority people who reported exposure to racial discrimination at 1 time point had 12-Item Short Form Health Survey (SF-12) mental component scores 1.93 (95% confidence interval [CI] = -3.31, -0.56) points lower than did those who reported no exposure to racial discrimination, whereas those who had been exposed to 2 or more domains of racial discrimination, at 2 different time points, had SF-12 mental component scores 8.26 (95% CI = -13.33, -3.18) points lower than did those who reported no experiences of racial discrimination. Controlling for racial discrimination and other socioeconomic factors reduced ethnic inequalities in mental health.

Conclusions: Cumulative exposure to racial discrimination has incremental negative long-term effects on the mental health of ethnic minority people in the United Kingdom. Studies that examine exposure to racial discrimination at 1 point in time may underestimate the contribution of racism to poor health.

MeSH terms

  • Ethnicity / psychology*
  • Female
  • Health Status
  • Health Status Disparities
  • Hexetidine
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Mental Health / ethnology*
  • Minority Groups / psychology*
  • Racism / psychology*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Stress, Psychological / ethnology
  • United Kingdom


  • Hexetidine