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      Stress-Related Biosocial Mechanisms of Discrimination and African American Health Inequities

      1 , 1 , 2
      Annual Review of Sociology
      Annual Reviews

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          Abstract

          This review describes stress-related biological mechanisms linking interpersonal racism to life course health trajectories among African Americans. Interpersonal racism, a form of social exclusion enacted via discrimination, remains a salient issue in the lives of African Americans, and it triggers a cascade of biological processes originating as perceived social exclusion and registering as social pain. Exposure to discrimination increases sympathetic nervous system activation and upregulates the HPA axis, increasing physiological wear and tear and elevating the risks of cardiometabolic conditions. Consequently, discrimination is associated with morbidities including low birth weight, hypertension, abdominal obesity, and cardiovascular disease. Biological measures can provide important analytic tools to study the interactions between social experiences such as racial discrimination and health outcomes over the life course. We make future recommendations for the study of discrimination and health outcomes, including the integration of neuroscience, genomics, and new health technologies; interdisciplinary engagement; and the diversification of scholars engaged in biosocial inequities research.

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          Is Open Access

          Racism as a Determinant of Health: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

          Despite a growing body of epidemiological evidence in recent years documenting the health impacts of racism, the cumulative evidence base has yet to be synthesized in a comprehensive meta-analysis focused specifically on racism as a determinant of health. This meta-analysis reviewed the literature focusing on the relationship between reported racism and mental and physical health outcomes. Data from 293 studies reported in 333 articles published between 1983 and 2013, and conducted predominately in the U.S., were analysed using random effects models and mean weighted effect sizes. Racism was associated with poorer mental health (negative mental health: r = -.23, 95% CI [-.24,-.21], k = 227; positive mental health: r = -.13, 95% CI [-.16,-.10], k = 113), including depression, anxiety, psychological stress and various other outcomes. Racism was also associated with poorer general health (r = -.13 (95% CI [-.18,-.09], k = 30), and poorer physical health (r = -.09, 95% CI [-.12,-.06], k = 50). Moderation effects were found for some outcomes with regard to study and exposure characteristics. Effect sizes of racism on mental health were stronger in cross-sectional compared with longitudinal data and in non-representative samples compared with representative samples. Age, sex, birthplace and education level did not moderate the effects of racism on health. Ethnicity significantly moderated the effect of racism on negative mental health and physical health: the association between racism and negative mental health was significantly stronger for Asian American and Latino(a) American participants compared with African American participants, and the association between racism and physical health was significantly stronger for Latino(a) American participants compared with African American participants. Protocol PROSPERO registration number: CRD42013005464.
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            Central role of the brain in stress and adaptation: links to socioeconomic status, health, and disease.

            The brain is the key organ of stress reactivity, coping, and recovery processes. Within the brain, a distributed neural circuitry determines what is threatening and thus stressful to the individual. Instrumental brain systems of this circuitry include the hippocampus, amygdala, and areas of the prefrontal cortex. Together, these systems regulate physiological and behavioral stress processes, which can be adaptive in the short-term and maladaptive in the long-term. Importantly, such stress processes arise from bidirectional patterns of communication between the brain and the autonomic, cardiovascular, and immune systems via neural and endocrine mechanisms underpinning cognition, experience, and behavior. In one respect, these bidirectional stress mechanisms are protective in that they promote short-term adaptation (allostasis). In another respect, however, these stress mechanisms can lead to a long-term dysregulation of allostasis in that they promote maladaptive wear-and-tear on the body and brain under chronically stressful conditions (allostatic load), compromising stress resiliency and health. This review focuses specifically on the links between stress-related processes embedded within the social environment and embodied within the brain, which is viewed as the central mediator and target of allostasis and allostatic load.
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              Is Racism a Fundamental Cause of Inequalities in Health?

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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Annual Review of Sociology
                Annu. Rev. Sociol.
                Annual Reviews
                0360-0572
                1545-2115
                July 30 2018
                July 30 2018
                : 44
                : 1
                : 319-340
                Affiliations
                [1 ]Department of Sociology, University of Nebraska–Lincoln, Lincoln, Nebraska 68588, USA;,
                [2 ]Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48104, USA;
                Article
                10.1146/annurev-soc-060116-053403
                38078066
                2d9195c5-a3ef-4bd2-82cf-a46316b8bf1f
                © 2018
                History

                Sociology,Psychology,Anthropology,Social & Behavioral Sciences,General social science,General behavioral science

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