Rumination Following Discrimination Can Lead to Depression, Anxiety in Black Youth, Study Shows

Photo: A Black teenage girl in a blue hoodie sits in a darkened room, her head resting against her right hand, eyes downcast

The likelihood that Black children will experience racial discrimination increases as they age and spend time in their communities, schools, and online. Racial discrimination is a significant public health concern. Approximately 90% of Black youth report discriminatory experiences each year that increases their vulnerability to depression and anxiety.

According to researchers, Black youth may ruminate about their discriminatory experiences, which is the internalization of negative feelings as a coping strategy, but it can lead to detrimental mental health outcomes.

Curious to understand the interplay between rumination, mental health, racial discrimination, and age in Black pre- and early-adolescents, researchers analyzed data provided by 158 youth who participated in the Charleston Resiliency Monitoring study. Participants were recruited from third, sixth, or ninth grade at study entry and ranged between the ages of 7 years and 16 years. The ongoing longitudinal study analyzes the effects of interpersonal stressors on youth mental health. Results from the current analysis show:

  • Greater racial discrimination and rumination were significantly associated with increased depression and anxiety.
  • Younger children reported greater anxiety than adolescents.
  • Female participants reported greater levels of rumination, depression, and anxiety than male participants.
  • Adolescent participants reported greater depression than younger participants.

Researchers concluded that rumination is a key pathway by which racial discrimination is associated with adverse mental health outcomes among Black youth. As youth age, they have more sophisticated ways of thinking, increasing their rumination capacity. Discoveries from this study can influence the development of policy and age-appropriate interventions to help Black youth to cope with racial discrimination.

Bernard, D. L., López, C. M., Banks, D. E., Hahn, A. M., & Danielson, C. K. (2023). Developmental differences in the impact of racial discrimination on depression and anxiety among Black youth: Examining rumination as a mechanism. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 93(4), 293-303.

Page published June 27, 2024