A new journal article released in the peer-reviewed publication Health Psychology identified a purported distinction between adults who experience racial discrimination and those who do not.
In the new study, Black women and men were more likely to react differently to the effects of racial discrimination. According to experts at the American Psychological Association, Black women and girls are at a higher likelihood of engaging in healthier eating patterns and physical exercise routines, providing them a healthy way to cope.
For the study, data of more than 800 families were collected spanning 14 years. The participants resided in the American states of Iowa and Georgia, taking part in the Family and Community Health Study.
“Numerous studies have found evidence of a link between perceived discrimination and unhealthy behavior, especially substance use,” the APA authors wrote in their article. “The current study further examined this positive relation, including an anticipated moderator: optimism. It also examined the relation between perceived racial discrimination and a correlate of unhealthy behavior: BMI.”
The study concluded that the more optimistic the Black female participants were, despite their racial discriminatory experiences, the more they were likely to exercise and adhere to dietary interventions, subsequently leading to a healthier lifestyle.
“Perceived racial discrimination does not appear to be related to BMI among African Americans, but it is related to healthy behavior among Black females who are high in dispositional optimism,” the authors stated.
“The findings were surprising and suggest that adaptive coping strategies may lead to resiliency. This contrasts with the avoidant coping strategies that we might see out of someone who is less optimistic.”