Black Americans deal with adversity in their lives much better than white Americans do, recent research shows.
Whites have higher life expectancies than blacks, who have higher instances of chronic medical conditions like obesity, stroke, heart disease, cancer and hypertension. But even though whites live an average of 3.6 years longer and may have a lower risk of those conditions, they are worse at coping with “psychosocial risk factors” like lower levels of education, anger, depression and feeling in control of one’s life.
“White Americans seem to be more vulnerable to certain psychosocial risk factors for a wide range of physical and mental health outcomes compared to minority groups,” wrote Shervin Assari of the University of Michigan about his research. “In other words, they are less resilient – less able to successfully adapt to life tasks in the face of highly adverse conditions.”
Several studies conducted by Assari and his colleagues found that stress factors had a higher likelihood of impacting future mortality in whites than in blacks. They found that people who reported more depressive symptoms at the beginning of a 25-year study were a better predictor of mortality at the end of the study period, but only for whites. Similar research also showed that depressive symptoms increased the likelihood of chronic medical conditions in whites but not in blacks.
Researchers believe that whites are less resilient because they have less experience dealing with “adversities.”
“This lack of preparedness and experience with previous stressors may place whites at the highest risk of poor outcomes when life gets out of control,” Assari wrote. “Minority groups, on the other hand, have consistently lived under economic and social adversities which has given them firsthand experience and ability to believe that they can handle the new stressors. For blacks a stressor is anything but new. They have mastered their coping skills.”
Whites, on the other hand, are less adept at dealing with such stressors.
“It seems that vulnerability is a cost of privilege, and resilience comes as a result of adversity,” Assari wrote.