Discrimination can accelerate aging, research suggests – and may particularly affect white people

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Topline

Researchers at New York University looked at the biological effects of discrimination and found that it can cause accelerated aging, building on previous research showing that discrimination can contribute to health problems such as depression and heart problems.

Key facts

The researchers followed more than 2,000 participants between 2004 and 2009, or between 2012 and 2016; 81% identified as white, 19% identified as black, the average age was 53 years old and more than half were women, according to the study published Thursday in Brain, Behavior, and Immunity-Health.

Participants were asked whether they experienced three types of discrimination: everyday discrimination, that is, subtle examples of disrespect in everyday life; serious discrimination, including more serious actions such as police brutality or not being allowed to buy a house; and discrimination in the workplace, which involves unfair treatment and hinders professional growth at work.

Previous research has linked discrimination to health problems such as heart problems and depression – which can cause accelerated aging – so the researchers looked at discrimination-related aging at the molecular level by scoring participants on DNA markers used to assess the biological consequences of aging . .

They found that participants who reported higher levels of all forms of discrimination had higher biological aging scores – meaning they aged faster – than those with the lowest levels, although everyday and major discrimination had more serious consequences than workplace discrimination.

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Surprising fact

Although black participants experienced the most discrimination and therefore had higher aging scores, white participants who did experience discrimination were more sensitive to its effects. The researchers think this may be due to the fact that white participants have fewer coping mechanisms because they experience less discrimination. Last research also found that white people experienced more severe consequences of discrimination, including higher death rates, than black people.

Crucial quote

“Experiencing discrimination appears to accelerate the aging process, which can contribute to disease and premature death and fuel health inequities,” said Adolfo Cuevas, senior author and assistant professor in NYU’s Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences. s School of Global Public Health, said in a statement.

Important background

Discrimination can lead to other health problems. People who experienced moderate levels of discrimination in the workplace were 22% more likely to develop high blood pressure compared to those who did not, and participants who experienced high levels of discrimination were 54% more likely to develop high blood pressure. according to to the American Heart Association. Young adults who experience discrimination at least a few times a month are 25% more likely to be diagnosed with a mental disorder and twice as likely to develop serious mental health problems than people who have experienced discrimination less or not at all, a 2021 study study found it. Everyday discrimination increases significantly moderate to severe depressive symptoms and suicidal thoughts. Coping mechanisms such as smoking are strengthened as a result of discrimination, which can then lead to heart problems, according to based on previous research from NYU. Discrimination is connected with this higher rates of death, especially from heart disease.

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