What is it about?

Experiencing discrimination can have an impact on a person's health. One of the ways this can happen is through a person's involvement in healthy and unhealthy behaviors. This meta-analysis pulls together over one hundred research papers to help pinpoint the degree of relationship between discrimination experiences and health-behaviors such as smoking, alcohol use, substance use, risky sexual behavior, and diet/eating habits.

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Why is it important?

This meta-analysis and supplementary synthesis document a pattern of results suggesting that experiences of discrimination are related to increases in unhealthy behavior and decreases in healthy behavior. This is important because these health-related behaviors can produce downstream effects on physical health outcomes, especially when discrimination is experienced chronically. The supplemental material also provides a collection of studies investigating intervening factors that might lead discrimination to produce changes in health-behaviors.


This article is about a decade in the making, as we first started collecting information for it while working on a meta-analysis linking discrimination and physical health outcomes (written for the Oxford Handbook of Stigma, Discrimination, and Health, 2018). Both of these are updates to our initial meta-analysis, published in 2009 (Psychological Bulletin) looking at the relationship between discrimination and health (in general, including mental health). In 2009, we only had 14 articles linking discrimination to health-related behavior, so it was amazing to see how the literature had blossomed, particularly in this area, in the intervening decade. While meta-analyses may not always be the most interesting articles to read, I hope that this article serves as a valuable resource for individuals interested in this topic, whether it be to cite evidence of the general relationship, to point you toward articles you may be interested in, and/or to inspire others to push forward in identifying the psychological pathways responsible for this relationship, with an aim to find ways the negative impacts can be reduced or prevented.

Elizabeth Pascoe
University of North Carolina at Asheville

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Meta-analysis of interpersonal discrimination and health-related behaviors., Health Psychology, May 2022, American Psychological Association (APA), DOI: 10.1037/hea0001147.
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