UF researchers have linked the effects of racism to high blood pressure in African-Americans — and determined that addressing inequity may reverse the trend.
The findings were made by Clarence Gravlee, a UF professor in the Department of Anthropology, along with Connie Mulligan, a UF professor in the Department of Anthropology, specializing in genetics.
Gravlee, who has worked on compiling the research for the past 10 years, published the findings in December.
Previous research showed high blood pressure is 50-percent more common among African-Americans than white Americans, Gravlee said. Gravlee and Mulligan’s study shows that facing discrimination and watching others face oppression can cause high blood pressure, rather than genetic predispositions within the black community.
“We now have evidence that people’s health is harmed not just by what happens to them directly, but also by the existence of racism in the broader society,” he said.
Some African-Americans seem to have genes that make them more susceptible to the harmful effects of racism, which can be triggered by systemic racism, he added.
“Some of those differences are due to different genes that people have, but those genes are not patterned by racial groups,” he said.
More research should be done on the health effects of African-Americans who watch strangers face discrimination, such as videos of police brutality, he said. He believes addressing systemic racism would reduce health issues in African-Americans, as well as raise their life expectancy.
“I think it’s a moral problem as well that that kind of inequality exists in our society,” he said.
Bahasi Chapman, a UF Black Affairs ambassador, said she’s always known discrimination plays a role in the health of African-Americans.
“It’s not really a surprise,” the 19-year-old UF criminology and law and African-American studies sophomore said.
As a black woman, she said even if she became a successful CEO, she would face discrimination in her everyday life.
“It doesn’t matter how far you rise up, it’s still going to affect your health,” she said.