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Black college students' mental health is affected by racial discrimination linked to drinking

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Black American college students are disproportionately affected by excessive alcohol use, with more negative social and health repercussions than their white counterparts.

Racial prejudice can contribute to depressive symptoms and problem alcohol consumption in Black American college students, according to a recent study from Arizona State University and Virginia Commonwealth University. Problem drinking is more common among college students than among non-college students, although the differences in how alcohol affects various persons are poorly known, in part due to the lack of studies on minority communities. The mechanisms that contribute to and guard against alcohol use disorders among Black American college students were investigated in this study, which was published in the journal Psychology of Addictive Behaviors in August.

“While black American college students drink less than their counterparts, they are more likely to experience drinking-related difficulties. “Knowing the dangers and protective variables for this group is critical,” said Jinni Su, an assistant professor of psychology at ASU and the paper's first author. “Racial discrimination was linked to poor mental health outcomes, raising the probability of alcohol abuse and related issues.

Discrimination is a well-known stressor that might lead to a coping method of drinking alcohol.

“When people are stressed and don't have good coping skills or resources, they may turn to alcohol or other drugs as a coping method. We know from past study that people who are subjected to racial and ethnic discrimination are more likely to develop drinking problems,” Su explained.

In two groups of Black American college students, racial discrimination was linked to alcohol consumption. Changes in mental health, in the form of increased depressed symptoms, were the link between the two. Su explained, “Racial discrimination increased the risk of alcohol consumption and related difficulties, and this association was linked to lower mental health outcomes.”

The researchers also looked into whether people's perceptions of themselves were protective against problem drinking. They looked at the influence of having favorable thoughts about being a Black American and believing that society as a whole perceives Black people positively.

The association between discrimination, mental health, and alcohol consumption was less in participants who had favorable sentiments about being a Black American. However, those who believed that society viewed Black people positively had a higher link between racial discrimination, mental health, and alcohol consumption.

“The impact of racial discrimination differs for everyone; it varies in part dependent on identity beliefs,” Su explained. “We discovered that participants who were proud of their race were protected from the negative impacts of prejudice on their mental health and drinking behavior. We also discovered that participants who believe others think highly of them were more severely influenced by prejudice, probably because unjust treatment is more difficult to comprehend.”

Eleanor Seaton of the T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics, as well as Chelsea Williams of the Spit for Science Working Group and Danielle Dick of Virginia Commonwealth University, collaborated to the project.


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