Young people of multiple disadvantaged groups face worse health due to more discrimination

June 11, 2012

An Indiana University study found that teens and young adults who are members of multiple minority or disadvantaged groups face more discrimination than their more privileged peers and, as a result, report worse mental and physical health.

In general, as the number of minority or disadvantaged groups to which belonged increased -- reflecting their gender, , race and -- the number of forms of discrimination they experienced and their frequency of exposure to discrimination also increased. As a result of their exposure to more forms of and more frequent discrimination, multiply disadvantaged teens and young adults experienced the most .

"Past work on discrimination and health focused on adults and examined the relationship between discrimination and health by only looking at one form of discrimination," said Eric Anthony Grollman, a in the College of Arts and Sciences' Department of Sociology at IU Bloomington. "For me, these new findings really speak to the importance of looking at the multiple dimensions of discrimination and health. You cannot capture an individual's full experience and well-being by just looking at race, for example."

Grollman's study, "Multiple Forms of Perceived Discrimination and Health Among Adolescents and Young Adults," appears in the June issue of the .

For the study, Grollman analyzed responses from 1,052 participants in the Black Youth Culture Survey of the University of Chicago's Black Youth Project. These data, which also included responses from young people who were Latino and white, provided a nationally that was diverse and evenly distributed across ages of survey participants, who were 15 to 25 years old.

Grollman's study considered four forms of discrimination -- based on race, gender, and social class -- as well as the frequency of discrimination. Teens and young adults in his study reported experiencing nearly two forms of discrimination on average. Those who were not from a minority or disadvantaged group (i.e., white, heterosexual males, whose families were never on welfare) reported experiencing 1.6 forms; those from one minority or disadvantaged group reported experiencing 1.7 forms; those from two reported experiencing 1.9 forms; those from three reported experiencing 2.1 forms; and those from four reported experiencing 2.8 forms.

When comparing teens and young adults who were not members of a minority or disadvantaged group with young people who were members of only one such group, Grollman found little difference in their reports of the number of forms and the frequency of discrimination they experienced.

"Teens and young adults who are members of only one minority or disadvantaged group are virtually indistinguishable from young people who are not members of any of these types of groups in terms of their exposure to discrimination and their status," Grollman said.

A gap between teens and young adults who were not members of a minority or disadvantaged group and young people who were members of such groups became increasingly apparent, however, as the number of minority or disadvantaged groups increased.

Other findings from the study include:

  • More than half of the young people reported experiencing two or more forms of discrimination, and 13 percent reported experiencing all four forms of
  • The measurements for depressive symptoms looked at the number of days teens and young adults reported feeling blue in the past month (from 0 to 30) plus the number of days they reported feeling disinterested in things in the past month (from 0 to 30), for a scale ranging from 0 to 60. Young people who were not members of a minority or disadvantaged group averaged a score of 8.3, with the number increasing to 18.7 for those who were members of four such groups.
  • The self-rated scale for ranged from 0 (fair/poor) to 3 (excellent). Teens and who were not members of a minority or disadvantaged group averaged a score of 1.9; those from one averaged 1.9; those from two averaged 1.7; those from three averaged 1.6; and those from four averaged 1.3.

Explore further: Study looks at discrimination's impact on smoking

More information: "Multiple Forms of Perceived Discrimination and Health Among Adolescents and Young Adults," Journal of Health and Social Behavior.

Related Stories

Study looks at discrimination's impact on smoking

March 15, 2012
Smoking, the leading preventable cause of mortality in the United States, continues to disproportionately impact lower income members of racial and ethnic minority groups.

Discrimination may harm your health

January 12, 2012
Racial discrimination may be harmful to your health, according to new research from Rice University sociologists Jenifer Bratter and Bridget Gorman.

Recommended for you

The environmental injustice of beauty

August 16, 2017
Women of color have higher levels of beauty-product-related chemicals in their bodies compared to white women, according to a commentary published today in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. The authors say ...

Heavily used pesticide linked to breathing problems in farmworkers' children

August 15, 2017
Elemental sulfur, the most heavily used pesticide in California, may harm the respiratory health of children living near farms that use the pesticide, according to new research led by UC Berkeley.

Taking a stand on staying mobile after 80

August 14, 2017
(HealthDay)—If you want to stay as fit as possible well into your 80s, the answer may be as simple as standing on your own two feet.

Binge-watching 'The Walking Dead?' You might feel like a zombie yourself

August 14, 2017
Binge-watching is a great way for young adults to catch up on multiple episodes of their favorite television series like "The Walking Dead" or "Game of Thrones," but it comes at a price.

Bugs on the menu at Swiss supermarket

August 14, 2017
Switzerland's first insect-based food aimed at humans will go on sale next week following a revision of the country's food safety laws, a supermarket chain said Monday.

Why social smoking can be just as bad for you as daily smoking

August 14, 2017
"Everything in moderation." It's a common justification made for behaviors that may fall outside the realm of healthy. Whether it's a drink or two or indulging in a favorite dessert, consuming small quantities, rather than ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.