Race-Related Stress and Hopelessness in Community-Based African American Adults: Moderating Role of Social Support

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Abstract

Objectives: The mental health outcomes associated with racial discrimination are well documented in scientific literature. Despite strong links to mental illness, hopelessness is largely overlooked as a consequence of discrimination in empirical research. The current study examined the association of race-related stress and hopelessness in a community sample of African American adults. Utilizing a risk-resilience framework, we examined multiple dimensions of social support as plausible protective factors against the negative effects of race-related stress. Method: Self-report measures of race-related stress (Index of Race Related Stress—Brief; Utsey & Ponterotto, 1996), hopelessness (Beck Hopelessness Scale; Beck, Weissman, Lester, & Trexler, 1974), and social support (Interpersonal Support Evaluation List; Cohen & Hoberman, 1983) were completed by a sample of African American adults (N = 243; mean age = 35.89 years). Results: Multiple regression analyses were conducted to assess the main and interactive effects of race-related stress and three dimensions of social support (appraisal, belonging, and self-esteem) in relation to hopelessness ratings. All dimensions of social support were associated with self-reported hopelessness, with the self-esteem dimension emerging as the strongest predictor. Though self-esteem social support buffered the role of race-related stress on self-reported hopelessness, appraisal and belonging support did not. Conclusions: Individual and collective morale for one’s racial group (via self-esteem social support) may be especially valuable for African Americans who face racial discrimination. Findings highlight the importance of culturally relevant factors that may ameliorate the effects of race-related stress.

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