According to the study, communities with higher levels of racial prejudice experience poorer health outcomes such as heart disease and mental health problems.

Racial prejudice is harmful to health, according to a recent study published by the American Psychological Association. For the study, which aimed to examine racism as a “multilevel determinant of health,” researchers led a systemic review of 14 different studies that used data from Google, Twitter, and other data sources to evaluate the association between racial prejudice within a community and the health outcomes of people of color living in the area.

All the studies evaluated found racism is in fact associated with a range of health outcomes, including heart disease, adverse birth outcomes, increased mortality, and poor self-reported physical and mental health. While the team of researchers mention there are multiple theories behind the findings, they refer to the belief that the poor health outcomes are caused by stress and tension as a direct result of racial discrimination within a community, stating the stress leads to “maladaptive coping behaviors” such as poor nutrition and lack of exercise. They also noted that racial prejudice within a community limits opportunities and resources needed to achieve optimal health.

“As we see from this review, living in an environment with an overall climate that is prejudiced against people of color is not only bad for racially marginalized groups, but for everyone. Area-level racial prejudice is a social determinant of population health,” said senior author of the study Amani M. Allen, Ph.D., MPH, professor of community health sciences and epidemiology, University of California Berkeley School of Public Health, in a statement.

The RISE Summit on Social Determinants of Health

To address racism as a social determinant of health, researchers called for further research to deepen the understanding of the impacts of racial prejudice on health. Their recommendations included evaluating associations between area-level racial prejudice and cultural racism, additional data analysis, natural experiments and outcome assessments, and an increased use of big data in public health social science research.

“Because racism is multidimensional, dismantling it and its effects on health will require multidimensional solutions,” said lead study author Eli Michaels, MPH, doctoral candidate, University of California, Berkeley in the study announcement. “Research identifying the root causes of, and testing interventions to shift, our collective prejudice is an urgent priority.”