A psychology professor from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill claims racism can cause African-American college students to gain weight and lead to other health issues.
In a Monday lecture given at the University of Georgia, Enrique W. Neblett Jr. argued that racism in today's society can have damaging effects on the health of African Americans, especially young adults who are venturing out into the world for the first time, UGA's The Red & Black newspaper reported.
"When African-American youth are going to college and leaving home, their parents are no longer right there," Neblett said in the lecture titled "Racism-Related Stress and Mental Health: A study of African-American College Students During the Transition to Young Adulthood."
"Youth are thinking about their identity and may experience race discrimination for the first time," Neblett continued according the newspaper. "Experiencing racism might lead to compromised health. For example, some students will cope by eating fatty snacks."
Depression, anxiety, high blood pressure and even cardiovascular disease are some of the health effects amplified by racism, according to previous research and a study conducted by Neblett.
Using a group of generally healthy black 21 year olds, mostly female, Neblett tested their responses when listening to scenarios that may be perceived as racist, such as a black person being skipped over while waiting in line. The same group also listened to more offensive examples, such being called a racial slur.
The professor paid attention to each student's autonomic nervous system- which controls a person's "fight-or-flight" reaction- while listening to the scenarios.
Based on each student's reaction to the stress presented by the situation, Neblett said scientists can tell which students were more likely to develop metal and physical problems over time, according to The Red & Black. He hopes the findings can be used to help young African Americans deal with similar real-life situations before it takes a toll on their health.