Perceived Interpersonal Discrimination and Older Women's Mental Health: Accumulation Across Domains, Attributions, and Time

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Abstract

Experiencing discrimination is associated with poor mental health, but how cumulative experiences of perceived interpersonal discrimination across attributes, domains, and time are associated with mental disorders is still unknown. Using data from the Study of Women's Health Across the Nation (1996-2008), we applied latent class analysis and generalized linear models to estimate the association between cumulative exposure to perceived interpersonal discrimination and older women's mental health. We found 4 classes of perceived interpersonal discrimination, ranging from cumulative exposure to discrimination over attributes, domains, and time to none or minimal reports of discrimination. Women who experienced cumulative perceived interpersonal discrimination over time and across attributes and domains had the highest risk of depression (Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale score ≥16) compared with women in all other classes. This was true for all women regardless of race/ethnicity, although the type and severity of perceived discrimination differed across racial/ethnic groups. Cumulative exposure to perceived interpersonal discrimination across attributes, domains, and time has an incremental negative long-term association with mental health. Studies that examine exposure to perceived discrimination due to a single attribute in 1 domain or at 1 point in time underestimate the magnitude and complexity of discrimination and its association with health.

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