Racism can erode physical well-being

The chronic stress of experiencing discrimination can gradually erode people’s physical well-being over time, according to Mary Bassett, director of the François-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard University.

Bassett was one of several experts quoted in a June 12, 2020 article in The Guardian about the links between racism and health. She cited studies showing that people who experience years of microaggressions develop heart disease more rapidly than others; that stress from frequent racist encounters leads to chronic low-grade inflammation in black women; and that pregnant women reporting high levels of discrimination tend to have babies with lower birth weights.

Bassett said that other research has found links between the constant stress of being marginalized with a phenomenon called “weathering”—accelerated aging on a genetic level.

Read the Guardian article: ‘Long overdue’: lawmakers declare racism a public health emergency

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America is Failing its Black Mothers (Harvard Public Health magazine)