A recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan School of Kinesiology has shed light on the harmful effects of racial discrimination on the health of overweight and obese adolescents. The study examined the impact of different types of discrimination on cortisol levels in the body, which can lead to chronic health conditions.
The researchers surveyed 100 adolescents aged 13-19 and measured their salivary cortisol levels over three days. They found that teens who reported experiencing racial discrimination from their peers had unhealthy levels of cortisol throughout the day. This disruption in cortisol patterns can contribute to obesity, Type 2 diabetes risk, anxiety, and depression.
Although peer discrimination was not the most frequently reported type of discrimination, it had the greatest impact. Rebecca Hasson, the director of the Childhood Disparities Research Laboratory, explained that this is because peers are often the most important relationships during adolescence.
The study found that racial discrimination affected both Black and white teens, but African American or Black children were more likely to experience it. This exposure to discrimination led to higher levels of stress for Black adolescents. The researchers emphasize the importance of acknowledging everyone’s humanity and finding ways to eliminate racial discrimination.
To combat the negative health effects of stress and discrimination, Hasson’s lab has developed physical activity programs for children called Interrupting Prolonged sitting with Activity (InPACT). These programs provide activity breaks throughout the day in hopes of fostering positive peer relationships and reducing the impact of discrimination.
The goal of the study is not only to mitigate the effects of discrimination but also to develop policies and programs that address and eliminate discrimination entirely. By recognizing the harmful consequences of racial discrimination on adolescent health, steps can be taken to promote a more inclusive and supportive environment for all young individuals.
(Source: Psychosomatic Medicine)