Racial Discrimination and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

Izzie Piña

June 29, 2022

Racial Discrimination is Associated with Acute Posttraumatic Stress Symptoms and Predicts Future Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms Severity in Trauma-Exposed Black Adults in the United States

This article looks at the increased risk of developing posttraumatic stress disorder, commonly known as PTSD, and more severe symptoms in black residents compared to their non-Hispanic white counterparts. PTSD is a mental health disorder that can occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event. It can last a few months or many years, everyone is different and recovery varies depending on the individual.  

This study looked at two different factors, the first being whether a past racial discrimination was related to acute PTSD symptoms, these are symptoms that show up in the first month following a trauma. The second is whether racial discrimination could contribute to future PTSD symptoms. Racial discrimination is discrimination against any individual because of their skin color, racial or ethnic origin.

Our study looked at a population of adult individuals who came into the emergency department after a recent traumatic experience. These individuals were asked to complete two study visits in two weeks and six months from their traumatic experience. During these visits individuals completed questionnaires and were paid for their time. These questionnaires included questions about their past experiences, symptoms, social support, or other stressful and traumatic events.        

We learned that those who have experiences of racial discrimination can have an increased risk to develop PTSD symptoms after experiencing or witnessing a trauma. These findings support and add to the evidence and personal testimonies that racial discrimination can affect mental health and over all well-being in black individuals in a primarily white dominated society. These findings also highlight the recent call for racism to be classified as a public health crisis.

Bird,C. M., Webb, E. K., Schramm, A. T., Torres, L., Larson, C., deRoon‐Cassini, T. A. (2021). Racial discrimination is associated with acute post traumatic stress symptoms and predicts future post traumatic stress disorder symptom severity in trauma‐exposed black adults in the United States. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 34(5), 995–1004. https://doi.org/10.1002/jts.22670