Discrimination took a toll on the mental health of racial and ethnic minority groups during the COVID-19 pandemic, study finds: The pandemic was a particularly stressful period for communities that have faced discrimination in the United States

Everyday discrimination experienced by people of racial and ethnic minority groups during the early phase of the COVID-19 pandemic was associated with significantly increased odds of moderate to severe depression and thoughts of suicide, researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and their colleagues have found.

In a study in JAMA Psychiatry, the team reported that the greater the discrimination, the more pronounced the depressive symptoms.

The associations with depression during the pandemic were highest among Hispanic/Latino and Asian/Pacific Islander participants when the main reason for discrimination was based on race, ancestry, or national origin.

“Previous studies have documented the adverse health effects of discrimination, but we were surprised at the magnitude of the effect on the mental health and quality of life of people who have often had to deal with intolerance in their everyday lives,” says Jordan Smoller, MD, ScD, associate chief for research in the MGH Department of Psychiatry.

“In fact, at high levels of everyday discrimination, the association with moderate to severe depressive symptoms was similar to the effect of having a pre-pandemic mood disorder diagnosis, which is pretty dramatic.”

For communities that routinely face structural racism — including Black, Hispanic/Latino, and Asian/Pacific Islander — the pandemic has been a particularly stressful period, given higher rates of unemployment, food and housing insecurity, limited access to healthcare, and even racially motivated violence.

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