Mindfulness buffers the relationship between discrimination and depressive symptoms

New research suggests that mindfulness can protect against some of the negative psychological consequences of racial and ethnic discrimination. The study was published in the journal Mindfulness.

“Mounting research has demonstrated the positive effects of mindfulness for mitigating the effects of stress,” said study author Amanda J. Shallcross of New York University.

“However, the bulk of this research has been conducted in racially/ethnically homogeneous samples,” she told PsyPost. “Given the socio-political climate in the U.S. right now, the time was ripe to test whether mindfulness may be helpful for the significant numbers of racial/ethnic minorities who face daily stress in the form of discrimination.”

The researchers surveyed 97 Black, Asian, and Hispanic adults living in New York City regarding mindfulness, discrimination, and depression.

They found that mindfulness moderated the relationship between perceived discrimination and depressive symptoms. People who agreed with statements such as “I am able to accept the thoughts and feelings I have” and “I am able to focus on the present moment” were buffered from depressive symptoms when experiencing high levels of discrimination.

The findings provide evidence that “mindfulness may be useful for people for preventing depression in individuals with diverse backgrounds and who face discrimination,” Shallcross said.

The researchers controlled for the the potential confounding effects of age, sex, and income. But more research is necessary.

“In our study, we don’t actually know if participants are using mindfulness to combat the effects of discrimination,” Shallcross explained. “We only know that people higher in trait levels of mindfulness appear to be buffered from developing depression in the face of discrimination.”

“Future studies that use ecological momentary assessment or daily diary sampling methods are needed to understand whether people are using mindfulness in the moment to cope with discrimination.”

“We need to understand what kinds of strategies mitigate the effects of discrimination because it is a unique stressor given that it is uncontrollable and unpredictable and has the potential to threaten the core of a person’s identity in a way that other stressful events do not,” Shallcross added.

The study, “The Protective Role of Mindfulness in the Relationship Between Perceived Discrimination and Depression“, was authored by Amanda J. Shallcross and Tanya M. Spruill.