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Living in an area with more racism leads to worse health outcomes

New research from Berkeley Public Health found that people who live in communities with higher levels of racial prejudice have worse health outcomes.

The authors of the study, which was published in Health Psychology in early March, reviewed 14 papers that used big data to examine health outcomes and racial prejudice among those in disadvantaged communities.

“Racism is gaining recognition as a fundamental driver of health inequities,” said lead author Eli Michaels, MPH, a doctoral candidate at Berkeley Public Health. “Leveraging big data to capture area-level racial prejudice is one innovative approach to measuring the overall racial climate in which people live, work, play, and pray.”

Researchers studied mortality rates, adverse birth outcomes, and cardiovascular, mental, and overall self-rated health among people of color. Each study found a connection between levels of racial prejudice and adverse health outcomes for community members. Michaels added that systematic reviews like theirs are important to the field because they can summarize the “evidence to date” on a given topic, answering what is known and what is still unknown, and make directions for future research.

Going forward, Michaels said future research on racism and racial prejudice should more often utilize big data.

“Because racism is multidimensional, dismantling it and its effects on health will require multidimensional solutions,” Michaels said. “For example, in addition to developing anti-racist policies and reducing racial discrimination enacted by institutions and individuals, we may also need to shift the overall climate in which these policies and actions occur. Research identifying the root causes of, and testing interventions to shift our collective prejudice, is an urgent priority.”

Co-authors of the study include Eli K. Michaels, Christine A. Board, Mahasin S. Mujahid, PhD, Corinne A. Riddell, PhD, Rucker C. Johnson, PhD, and Amani M. Allen, PhD, all of UC Berkeley, and David H. Chae, ScD, of Tulane University.