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.