Making the transition to adulthood can be full of challenges. A new study finds that the effects of discrimination can cause severe mental health damage to the already-struggling young adult age group, reports NBC News.
The study from researchers at UCLA found that young adults who endure frequent interpersonal discrimination based on race, sex or physical appearance are at greater risk of mental health issues than those who don’t. The authors analyzed data from a 10-year survey and found that people ages 18 to 28 who experienced consistent short- or long-term discrimination are 25 percent more likely to experience psychological distress, to be diagnosed with a mental illness or to report excessive drug use.
“It paints a striking picture of how discrimination is very strongly related to mental and behavioral health in young adults. It’s harder to be a young person today than it has been in a long time,” said the study’s senior author, Dr. Adam Schickedanz, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. “The world is spinning faster. A lot of things are changing constantly, and there are a lot of challenges. If we’re more attuned to that … we can do better by young people.”
From 2007 to 2017, young adults who experienced consecutive years of severe, high-frequency discrimination showed higher risk for mental health problems and worse health overall, the research found.
While the study focused on people of various backgrounds, racial discrimination has long been considered a significant mental health stressor for Black people, with government leaders increasingly acknowledging that health inequities along racial lines can cause psychological distress. Experiencing racism has been linked to higher levels of anxiety and depression among Black people. An estimated 67 percent of Black adults have said discrimination is a significant source of stress, according to a July 2020 survey from the American Psychological Association.