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Rick Gibbons, Ph.D., University of Connecticut Friday, April 26th, 2013, 3:00pm-4:30pm, McClelland Park RM 402 “Racial Discrimination and Health Behavior: Risks, Buffers, and Genetic Modification” Significant disparities in health status exist between African Americans and European Americans in the US today, and these disparities maintain even when controlling for relevant factors, such as SES, health care accessibility, and insurance coverage. Many have suggested that racial discrimination contributes to these disparities, but the empirical evidence in support of this belief has been scarce. Most of that evidence has consisted of (synchronous) correlations between self-reported discrimination and reports of health status and health behavior. A series of studies is described in which a prospective relation between perceived racial discrimination and health behavior (substance use, risky sex) was established, and then mediators and moderators of this relation were examined. These studies, using both experimental (lab) and survey (field) methods, have converged in identifying affective mediators (anger, depression) and risk and protective modifiers (racial identity, coping style, parenting) of the relation. In addition, genetic architecture (presence of “sensitivity” genes) has been shown to interact with levels of discrimination in predicting health behavior and health status. Implications of these results—for policy and for the study of discrimination and health—are discussed.


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