WASHINGTON, D.C. – Americans who suffer discrimination because of their race, gender, disability, age and sexual identity are more likely to report higher stress levels, as revealed in a study conducted by the American Psychological Association (APA). Money and work figure as significant causes of stress, but nonwhite people are the most affected.

Money is a serious cause of stress for 62 percent of whites, but 78 percent of blacks, 77 percent of Hispanics and 70 percent of Asians and Native Americans, according to the APA’s annual Stress in America survey.

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Overall, 69 percent of American adults have felt discriminated in cases of managers showing the preference for younger workers or a security guard following a young black man through a mall, among other situations.

Researchers found that those who report discrimination tend to report higher stress levels. Whites who have not been discriminated say their stress level is a 4.0 on a ten-point scale, versus 5.4 for white Americans who report discrimination.

Dr. Lynn F. Bufka, the APA’s Assistant Executive Director for Practice Research and Policy, told reporters that although stress is a common experience in life, it turns into a serious problem when it becomes chronic and exerts a physical and mental toll. The APA team says daily experiences of discrimination are particular examples of that because they are really hard to tackle, partly due to the fact that they cannot be easily anticipated and interpreted.

Consequences of discrimination at work

Discrimination can lead to a lowered self-esteem, researchers say. Forty-three percent of Native Americans say they pay attention to the way they speak and are careful in hopes of avoiding discrimination. As for black adults, 29 percent of them say they feel a need to change the way they look for the same reason. About 31 percent of Hispanics reported feeling that way.

Nonwhites’ well-being is affected when they do not know how they will be evaluated at work and that uncertainty impacts their understanding of where they fit into the world, as explained by Dr. Bufka.

University of Michigan professor James Jackson said the problem is tricky because discrimination usually occurs in “one in one” situations, without other people who could witness it and share their opinion.

Before 2008, no significant difference was observed in stress levels for Americans making around $50,000, according to previous reports from the APA. Average stress levels had declined by a 2014 study, but an income gap opened up. Those Americans with higher incomes reported a stress level of 4.7 on a ten-point scale, compared to 5.2 for those with lower incomes.

“All Americans, and particularly those groups that are most affected by stress – which includes women, younger adults and those with lower incomes – need to address this issue sooner than later in order to better their health and well-being,” the APA said after the study results were released.

Source: Christian Science Monitor