Deal with It

How Bias and Discrimination Make Us Sick

Bias and discrimination are ugly aspects of human nature. They come in many forms. Fat shaming, racism, and sexism are all very much in the news. Also in the news is the physical harm to our health from repeated, stressful experiences with discrimination. The stress of bias and discrimination is making us sick.

The Stress Response to Discrimination

When black and Latino adults experience racism and discrimination, blood pressure rises. And it stays high through the day and into night. Likewise, cortisol levels rise in response to experiences of racial discrimination, sexism, and weight stigma. It’s all part of a fight or flight response.

Hundreds of recent studies are drawing a clear picture of the link between discrimination and poor health outcomes. Racism, sexism, and fat shaming are not just wrong. They’re taking our health.

The Common Thread of Obesity

African Americans and Latinos face a higher risk of obesity. Sexual abuse raises the risk, too. Of course, many factors come into play. But one common thread is an assault based on a person’s identity and appearance.

So, what will it take to overcome the burden of prejudice? If the moral imperative is not enough, perhaps we should start counting the costs. Discrimination is a health burden. It cuts lives short. Costs to the economy run into trillions of dollars. Healthcare costs add up. On top of that, lost productivity can make an economy uncompetitive. A vibrant job market requires a healthy workforce.

Respect for all is more than just a nicety. In fact, it’s imperative for an advanced economy.

Click here for more from the New York Times and here for more from NPR.

Deal with It, photograph © Maximus Yang / flickr

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November 13, 2017

One Response to “How Bias and Discrimination Make Us Sick”

  1. November 13, 2017 at 9:11 am, Allen Browne said:

    Ted,

    Good blog.

    I especially like:
    “So, what will it take to overcome the burden of prejudice? If the moral imperative is not enough, perhaps we should start counting the costs. Discrimination is a health burden. It cuts lives short. Costs to the economy run into trillions of dollars. Healthcare costs add up. On top of that, lost productivity can make an economy uncompetitive. A vibrant job market requires a healthy workforce.”

    Which is easily converted to:
    “So, what will it take to overcome the burden of obesity? If the moral imperative is not enough, perhaps we should start counting the costs. Obesity is a health burden. It cuts lives short. Costs to the economy run into trillions of dollars. Healthcare costs add up. On top of that, lost productivity can make an economy uncompetitive. A vibrant job market requires a healthy workforce.”

    My list of “Ted quotes” is growing

    Allen

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