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Racism Takes a Toll on Kids' Mental Health, Research Shows

Review found strong links between discrimination and anxiety, low self-esteem in minority teens.

Racism Takes a Toll on Kids' Mental Health, Research Shows

SUNDAY, Sept. 22 (HealthDay News) -- Being a victim of racism may trigger poor mental health, depression and anxiety in children and teens, according to a new review.

The report, published in the October issue of the journal Social Science & Medicine, looked at 461 cases of links between racism and the health and well-being of youngsters.

"The review showed there are strong and consistent relationships between racial discrimination and a range of detrimental health outcomes such as low self-esteem, reduced resilience, increased behavior problems and lower levels of well-being," lead researcher Naomi Priest, of the University of Melbourne in Australia, said in a university news release.

Most of the racism experienced by children and teens involved discrimination by other people, rather than institutional or systemic racism, according to the findings.

The review also revealed an increased risk of poorer birth outcomes among children whose mothers experienced racism during pregnancy.

Most of the studies included in the review were conducted in the United States with participants aged 12 to 18. Of the racial/ethnic groups included in the studies, the three most common were blacks, Hispanics and Asians.

"We know that children who experience poor health and well-being are less likely to engage in education, employment and other activities that support them to lead healthy and productive lives, and to participate meaningfully in the community," Priest said.

So, she noted, the findings identify an important issue that needs to be addressed in order to improve child and teen health.

More information

CivilRights.org explains the importance of talking to children about racism and diversity.  

SOURCE: University of Melbourne, news release, Sept. 17, 2013

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