Posted on Feb 15, 2017 | Comments 0
There have been a number of studies that have shown that racial discrimination and racism directed against African Americans can have short and long-term health effects on the health of Black Americans. A study led by Kristen Salomon, an associate professor of psychology at the University of South Florida in Tampa, find that women’s health can also be negatively impacted by sexism or discrimination based on gender.
Dr. Salomon found that women experienced an increased heart rate and higher blood pressure when exposed to gender discrimination in a controlled experiment involving a test. But she found an interesting difference. When women were exposed to hostile racism, such as being told by researchers that “girls aren’t good at this task, so I’m going to get rid of the hard section,” their heart rate and blood pressure spiked but returned to normal fairly quickly. But when the women were exposed to what researchers called “benevolent discrimination” by being told that “girls don’t like the hard section, so I’m going to go ahead and get rid of it for you” their heart rate and blood pressure remained higher for a longer period.
Dr. Salomon notes that longer recovery time from stressful situations can lead to health problems. If women are constantly being exposed to patronizing and disparaging comments about their abilities, it can lead to high levels of stress that can impact their health.
“The accumulation of stress produces wear and tear on our systems,” Dr. Salomon says.”We need to find psychological ways to manage our responses to stress.”
Dr. Salomon is a graduate of Ekerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida. She earned a Ph.D. in psychology at the University at Buffalo of the State University of New York System.
The study, “Flash Fire and Slow Burn: Women’s Cardiovascular Reactivity and Recovery Following Hostile and Benevolent Sexism,” was published in Journal of Experimental Psychology. It may be accessed here.