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Victims of racism are more likely to suffer from mental disorders


Fiocruz Bahia


The mental health of Brazilian women can be impaired by prejudice due to skin color, both in the personal and group dimension, increasing up to 70% the chance of suffering common mental disorders (CMD). This was the conclusion of a study conducted by Maurício Barreto, researcher and coordinator of the Center for Data and Knowledge Integration for Health (Cidacs) of Fiocruz Bahia, together with researchers from the Institute of Collective Health and the Institute of Humanities Arts and Sciences Professor Milton Santos, both from the Federal University of Bahia.

The research was described in the article Personal-Level and Group-Level Discrimination and Mental Health: The Role of Skin Color, published in the Journal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities. The study included 1,130 women originally enrolled in a research program called Social Changes, Asthma and Allergy in Latin America (SCAALA), created in 2004, which aims at studying the factors associated with the onset and persistence of asthma symptoms and markers of allergy in the Latin American population. 

In the field work, Experiences of Discrimination (EOD) and SRQ-20 instruments were used to identify the so-called common mental disorders. Both instruments have been validated for the Portuguese language in Brazil. The results of the questionnaire show that of 38.3% of the women who reported having symptoms of CMD 8.5% said they suffered a high level of prejudice, and 41.6% had concerns about discrimination. Women who had a higher level of CMDs had greater exposure to experiences of racism. It has also been shown that the relationship between CMDs and exposure to racism is more concentrated in women who declared themselves to be of a brown color, followed by black ones, and finally, white ones. According to the research, the results are important because they indicate that future studies on CMD in public health should also consider prejudice both at group level and individual level, in addition to skin color.

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