The Role Of Spirituality And Racial Identity In The Life Stress Process Of African-Americans
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Type of WorkText
DepartmentPublic Health and Policy
ProgramDoctor of Public Health
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African Americans--Mental health
The mental well-being of individuals is a major public health issue. Mental illness and its impairment exacts both economic and emotional burden on the population, impacting all racial and ethnic groups. However, findings from five community surveys suggest that the mental health issues of African-Americans is the same as, or lower than, those of Whites. This seems at odds with the minority status hypothesis that predicts higher rates of mental disorders for African-Americans due to greater mental illness linked to stress exposures. In understanding this dilemma, studies of race and mental health have historically failed to consider the role of African-American coping capacity in the life stress process. The research has also been limited by small numbers of African Americans, few within group studies, and lack of potential confounders. Using data from National Survey of American Life (NSAL), this current research examined the moderating effect of both spirituality and racial identity on the relationship between stress and depressive symptoms. The sample included N=3,570 African-American United States citizens 18 years or older. A multivariate linear regression approach was used to analyze the data. The findings did not support the hypothesis that spirituality moderates the relationship between depressive symptoms and stress although a direct relationship between spirituality and depressive symptoms was found. The findings did support the hypothesis that racial identity moderates the relationship with a weaker link between stress and depressive symptoms for those with higher scores on the racial identity index even in the presence of social support and sense of control. A key limitation is lack of any ability to make causal inferences as this is a cross-sectional survey. However, it does offer possible insight into the lower than expected levels of depression among African Americans. Additionally, out of the review of the literature, buttressed by the findings of the current study, an emerging theoretical model of a culturally linked stress and coping process was developed. The model should serve as a platform for additional research as well as a vehicle for expanding discussion around measurement of stress and distress; fostering dialogue between the faith-based community and public health.