Racism harms the body and psyche


Discrimination and exclusion harms the body, the psyche and thus health.

A so-called immigration debate is currently underway in Germany. In the course of the debate, one essential topic is not dealt with: How does such a partly discriminatory discussion affect the health of migrants living in Germany? Scientists from the University of Leipzig have published a study that shows how subjective or actual discrimination negatively affects people's bodies and psyche.

It is no secret that people who are disadvantaged, marginalized or treated unfairly become mentally and physically ill. A study by the University of Leipzig shows that perceived discrimination among people with a migration background has a major impact on health. Around 16 million people of non-German origin currently live in Germany. Although the group of immigrants is very large, it has hardly been known how they feel physically and mentally. For this reason, the social researchers led by Dipl. Ulrike Igel evaluated the data of 1,844 men and women who have lived in Germany on average for around 20 years. It was found that socio-economic factors such as the level of income, length of training or employment status have hardly any influence on the mental health of migrants. However, the perceived discrimination has a relatively strong impact. Anyone who feels discriminated suffers from a mental and physical illness. A possible consequence could be depression.

Men affected more than women
The researchers noticed that especially male migrants feel much more discriminated against and disadvantaged than women. The researchers suspect that women tend to deal with it more destructively and experience racism as being less talked about or even denied. However, it could also be because, according to a further assumption, that men are more likely to face exclusion than women because of their origin.

Turkish-born men most often feel excluded
Another factor was also noticed. The scientists took a closer look at the countries of origin of the migrants living in Germany. It became clear that men from the country of origin Turkey feel much more marginalized than people from Greece or Eastern Europe, for example.

The findings and the social researcher Igel and Team impressively show how strongly supposed or actually experienced exclusion and rejection of the well-being of migrants have an impact. Here, money or professional status have less of an impact on people's well-being, such as experienced or subjective exclusion. These results also coincide with the other international studies, which show that disadvantages experienced worsen the physical and psychological state of migrants and thus have a major impact on the health of those affected. The reason why the subjective or actual discrimination experienced contributes so much to the deterioration of health has not yet been clarified. This requires further studies, as the authors write in the journal "Psychiatrische Praxis". (sb, October 18, 2010)

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Photo credit: Dieter Sch├╝tz / pixelio.de.
Evidence of source: The impact of discrimination experiences on the health of migrants. Psychiatric Practice 2010; 37 (4): pp. 183-190.

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