The relationships between major lifetime discrimination, everyday discrimination, and mental health in three racial and ethnic groups of older adults.

TitleThe relationships between major lifetime discrimination, everyday discrimination, and mental health in three racial and ethnic groups of older adults.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2011
AuthorsAyalon, L, Gum, AM
JournalAging Ment Health
Date Published2011 Jul 01
ISSN Number1364-6915
KeywordsAdaptation, Psychological, Aged, Aged, 80 and over, Asian, Black or African American, Cross-Cultural Comparison, depression, Discrimination, Psychological, ethnicity, Hispanic or Latino, Humans, Longitudinal Studies, Mental Health, Middle Aged, Personal Satisfaction, Prejudice, Prevalence, Social Perception, Socioeconomic factors, Surveys and Questionnaires, United States, White People

OBJECTIVES: To evaluate the relationships between perceived exposure to major lifetime discrimination, everyday discrimination, and mental health in three racial/ethnic groups of older adults.

DESIGN: The Health and Retirement Study is a nationally representative sample of individuals 50 years and older living in the United States. A total of 6455 Whites, 716 Latinos, and 1214 Blacks were eligible to complete a self-report psychosocial questionnaire in the year 2006.

RESULTS: Whereas 30% of the general population reported at least one type of major lifetime discrimination, almost 45% of Black older adults reported such discrimination. Relative to the other two racial/ethnic groups (82% Whites, 82.6% Blacks), Latinos were significantly less likely to report any everyday discrimination (64.2%), whereas Blacks reported the greatest frequency of everyday discrimination. Whites reported the highest levels of life satisfaction and the lowest levels of depressive symptoms. Relative to major lifetime discrimination, everyday discrimination had a somewhat stronger correlation with mental health indicators. The relationships between discrimination and mental health outcomes were stronger for White compared to Black older adults, although everyday discrimination was still significantly associated with outcomes for Black older adults.

CONCLUSIONS: Black older adults experience the greatest number of discriminative events, but weaker associated mental health outcomes. This could be because they have become accustomed to these experiences, benefit from social or cultural resources that serve as buffers, or selective survival, with the present sample capturing only the most resilient older adults who have learned to cope with the deleterious effects of discrimination.


Ayalon, Liat Gum, Amber M U01AG009740/AG/NIA NIH HHS/United States Evaluation Studies Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural England Aging and mental health Aging Ment Health. 2011 Jul 1;15(5):587-94.

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Endnote Keywords

Adaptation, Psychological/African Americans/psychology/statistics/African Americans/psychology/statistics/numerical data/Aged, 80 and over/Asian Americans/psychology/statistics/Asian Americans/psychology/statistics/numerical data/Cross-Cultural Comparison/Cross-Cultural Comparison/Depression/ethnology/Depression/ethnology/Discrimination (Psychology)/Discrimination (Psychology)/Ethnic Groups/ psychology/statistics/Ethnic Groups/ psychology/statistics/numerical data/European Continental Ancestry Group/psychology/statistics/European Continental Ancestry Group/psychology/statistics/numerical data/Hispanic Americans/psychology/statistics/Hispanic Americans/psychology/statistics/numerical data/Humans/Longitudinal Studies/Mental Health/ ethnology/statistics/Mental Health/ ethnology/statistics/numerical data/Middle Aged/Personal Satisfaction/Personal Satisfaction/Prejudice/Prejudice/Prevalence/Questionnaires/Social Perception/Social Perception/Socioeconomic Factors/United States/epidemiology/United States/epidemiology

Endnote ID


Alternate JournalAging Ment Health
Citation Key7639
PubMed ID21815851
Grant ListU01AG009740 / AG / NIA NIH HHS / United States