Research conducted recently by a St. John’s professor has uncovered a number of important and startling conclusions on the correlations between racism and health.
The researcher, Dr. Elizabeth N. Brondolo, is a professor of psychology in St. John’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Since 2000, she and her research teams have conducted 10 studies with more than 2,500 participants.
“We look at the relationship of racism to mood, to social relationships, to coping and to ambulatory blood pressure and perceived health,” Brondolo said.
Brondolo is currently working with a team of St. John’s graduate students. According to a University release, the team is now focusing on Asian-American populations, examining the similarities between the types of discrimination they face and those of African and Latino Americans.
“We have found that experiences of ethnicity-related interpersonal maltreatment – that is, negative social interactions in which the target believes that at least some of the maltreatment was motivated by racial bias – are common,” Brondolo explained. “These experiences are distressing, and they change the way people feel about their other kinds of social interactions.”
The team has also found that the higher levels of racism can be connected with high night-time blood pressure. This can eventually become a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. The research is not only being talked about in the St. John’s community and in the United States, but around the world.
According to the University release, the discoveries were presented last November in Bangkok, Thailand, at the International Conference of Behavioral Medicine.
Brondolo said that the idea for the research originally came from doing many years of research on the relationship between interpersonal conflict and health. She started with employee groups, such as traffic agents and New York City elementary school teachers, that have had interpersonal conflicts at work due to various aspects of their jobs. From this, she expanded to the more serious issue of race.
Brondolo is determined to further her research in hopes of one day finding exactly how race related events can affect interaction and increase stress.
“We hope to be able to give people information about these processes and mechanisms,” she said. “Greater insight might help people reduce racial bias and reduce the health consequences of bias.”
This is an issue, Brondolo feels, that everyone can be involved in. Just talking about race related experiences with others can potentially make a difference.
“We have a tendency to get so anxious when we talk about race, that we stop talking and stop listening too quickly,” she said. “It can be uncomfortable, but it can also be very important to keep trying and to push past the fear. Connection across boundaries can bring hope.”