A study released by Boston University researchers have linked the experience of racism to cases of adult-onset asthma in African-American women. The study, released by the school’s Slone Epidemiology Center (SEC), says Black women who experienced frequent instances of racism were more likely to develop the lung condition in their adult years when compared to women who experienced less racism.
Conducted as part of the Black Women’s Health Study (BWHS), the research was published late last month by the American College of Chest Physicians.
The study found that stress from racism in some Black women will manifest itself via the immune system and airways.
The research was collected between 1997 and 2011, with 38,142 participants in all. With the high rate of racism and asthma in the women studied, the scientists made their determination.
This study followed 38,142 African-American women, all of whom are participants in the Black Women’s Health Study (BWHS), between 1997 and 2011. They completed health questionnaires every two years. In 1997 and 2009, they provided information on their experiences of “everyday” racism, like poor service in stores or restaurants, and “lifetime” racism, which was discrimination encountered on the job, in housing, and by police.
The results indicate that as experiences of everyday and lifetime racism increased, the incidence of adult-onset asthma also rose up to a 45 percent increase in women in the highest compared to the lowest category of the racism measures.
Furthermore, the incidence of asthma was increased even more in women who were in the highest category of everyday racism in both 1997 and 2009 and who may have had more consistent experiences of racism over time.
The study’s lead researcher, Dr. Patricia Coogan, offered that the rigors of stress that accompany racism has the potential to undermine the health of Black women:
This is the first prospective study to show an association between experiences of racism and adult-onset asthma,” said Coogan. “Racism is a significant stressor in the lives of African-American women, and our results contribute to a growing body of evidence indicating that experiences of racism can have adverse effects on health.
The BWHS bills itself as the largest follow-up study of African-American women in the United States, conducting such research since 1995 while studying a variety of health issues.