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Racial Tensions Are Endangering the Health of African Americans

Updated: Jun 25, 2020

If you are an African American the last several months have been emotionally gut-wrenching. The recent news coverage of the deaths of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, and Rayshard Brooks have been psychologically and emotionally devastating for so many Americans. So many of us have either participated or watched numerous Black Lives Matter protests and marches play out all over the world. These images have been stressful and depressing for so many of us. We have seen so many news stories and video clips of the blatant and pervasive racial discrimination and unfair injustices that have been occurring to so many black and brown Americans.

While all of these acts of racial discrimination and murders committed by police officers are playing out in various states, we are also in the middle of a deadly and contagious pandemic. To make matters worse, African-Americans who are infected with COVID-19 are disproportionately dying at higher rates all over the world. Even before the coronavirus pandemic emerged in March, minorities were already experiencing racial biases and health disparities that include a lack of access to quality health care and a surging maternal mortality rate. These racial inequities will no doubt cause long-term health consequences that include increased stress, depression, anxiety, rage, and mental health consequences.

A recent study conducted by researchers from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) on racial and ethnic discrimination and sleep health, found that stress and anxiety from racial discrimination can interfere with the ability to get adequate sleep (Gaston et al., 2020). Getting an adequate amount of sleep each night as well as managing stress is very important if we want to keep our immune system strong and healthy throughout this COVID-19 pandemic. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), at least one-third of US Adults are not getting the recommended six to eight hours of sleep (CDC, 2018).