People who experienced racial discrimination as teenagers had higher blood pressure, higher body max index, and elevated levels of stress-related hormones by the time they reached 20, placing them at greater risk for complicated health problems later in life, including chronic disease.

For the study—which was published in the journal Child Development—researchers at the University of Georgia assessed 331 African American teens living in the rural South, who were asked to rate the frequency of which they experience racial discrimination, slurs, insults, false accusations and physical threats. Their caregivers were also surveyed regarding the emotional support they offer the teens with regards to events of racial discrimination. The kids were then reassessed at age 20.


Researchers found that a small percentage of the teens showed an increase in the biological effects of stress. However, teens who received emotional support from their parents did not show the biological effects of stress, which suggests the importance of supportive parental relationships, as they can "be a protective barrier from stress-changing biology."