Put Your Heart into it: Does Physiology Facilitate Coping with Racial Discrimination and Can this Process Reduce Mental Health Symptoms? Public Deposited

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  • March 19, 2019
  • Volpe, Vanessa
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Psychology and Neuroscience
  • Racial discrimination is a central contributor to racial disparities in mental health, even after controlling for socioeconomic status (Williams & Mohammed, 2009). Furthermore, both self-reports of racial discrimination and mental health symptoms increase during the transition from adolescence to young adulthood for Black college students attending a predominantly White institution. While many Black students draw upon coping strategies to combat the risk that racial discrimination poses to their mental health, the extant literature is unclear regarding which strategies are most optimal. The present study aimed to clarify the coping literature by examining intraindividual estimates of respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA) as partial mediators in the relation between coping strategies and mental health symptoms. Black college students completed an online questionnaire (N=205) and a laboratory visit that recorded heart rate in response to an in vivo challenge via electrocardiogram (N=115). Using structural equation modeling and time series analysis, results indicated that: 1) more frequent use of John Henryism to cope with racial discrimination was uniquely associated with fewer self-reported symptoms of depression and anxiety in the short-term, above and beyond other coping strategies, and 2) elements of RSA during recovery from the challenge were directly associated with coping strategies and mental health symptoms. Frequency of use of John Henryism may merit further examination as an index of health risk during the transition from adolescence to young adulthood. While partial mediation of hypothesized paths was not supported, this work suggests fruitful new directions for research on the developmental impact of racial discrimination and coping strategies for Black young adults.
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Rights statement
  • In Copyright
  • Gariépy, Jean-Louis
  • Curran, Patrick
  • Shanahan, Lilly
  • Reznick, J. Steven
  • Gates, Kathleen
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Graduate School
Graduation year
  • 2016

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