This paper examines the relationship between racism, stress, and health disparities between Black and White Americans. Health disparities between Black and White Americans are a pressing issue in the United States. Blacks experience more severe and higher rates of a number of negative health outcomes than Whites experience, such as earlier development of hypertension, higher mortality due to cardiovascular disease, and higher rates of low birth weight and preterm birth. The biopsychosocial model of medicine asserts that environment and life experiences, which individuals often appraise as stressful, play a major role in the development of disease. In the United States today, stress is a serious problem for people of all racial groups. That said, Blacks suffer from chronic stress significantly more than Whites. A potential explanation of this differential experience of chronic stress is racism and social inequality. Pervasive social inequality and racial prejudices subject Blacks to environments and day-to-day interpersonal interactions that may be more stressful than the environments and interactions that Whites are subject to. This disproportionate experience of stress by Blacks may be a factor that contributes to health disparities between Black and White Americans.
Russell Borenstein-Burd, ’12
Sponsor: Carolyn Enns