Psychobiological effects of chronic ethnic discrimination in Turkish immigrants

Andreas Goreis, Urs Markus Nater, Nadine Skoluda, Ricarda Mewes

Objective: Ethnic discrimination negatively affects the health of ethnic minorities. The dysregulation of psychobiological stress systems, such as the autonomic nervous system (ANS) or the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, might be an intermediary in this association and chronicity of ethnic discrimination may matter. We studied stress responses to a standardized discriminatory event in Turkish immigrants living in Austria. Background: Seventy-two male Turkish immigrants were recruited; n = 35 had experienced high levels of ethnic discrimination (high), n = 37 infrequent ethnic discrimination (low). During a two-hour laboratory appointment, they underwent a previously validated 10-minute ethnic discrimination paradigm, i.e., a simulated physician's consultation with verbal and non-verbal discriminatory cues. Perceived stress, perceived discrimination, salivary cortisol, and alpha-amylase were assessed seven times, and ANS measures (heart rate, heart rate variability, and electrodermal activity) were measured continuously. In addition, hair cortisol concentrations were determined. Results: The ethnic discrimination paradigm elicited stress responses across all outcomes in both groups. Compared to the low group, the high group reported higher levels of perceived stress and discrimination, exhibited a less steep increase in cortisol in response to the paradigm, and showed higher hair cortisol concentrations. No group differences were found regarding ANS measures. Conclusions: The combination of high subjective stress, flattened cortisol responses, and relatively high hair cortisol concentrations may indicate a dysregulation of the HPA axis in chronic ethnic discrimination. A better understanding of the psychobiological effects of chronic ethnic discrimination is crucial given that alterations in stress response systems may, over time, lead to illness and ultimately to substantial health inequities in ethnic minorities.

Forschungs-, Lehr- und Praxisambulanz, Institut für Klinische und Gesundheitspsychologie, Forschungsplattform The Stress of Life - Processes and Mechanisms underlying Everyday Life Stress
Anzahl der Seiten
ÖFOS 2012
501010 Klinische Psychologie
ASJC Scopus Sachgebiete
Endocrine and Autonomic Systems, Psychiatry and Mental health, Biological Psychiatry, Endocrinology, Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
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