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Discrimination Fully Mediates the Effects of Incarceration History on Depressive Symptoms and Psychological Distress Among African American Men

April 2017

From the Journal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities 

Using a nationally representative sample of African American men, this study investigated the associations between lifetime history of incarceration, discrimination, and mental health (e.g., depressive symptoms and psychological distress). They hypothesized that discrimination would fully mediate the association between incarceration history and mental health outcomes among African American men. ¬†The study’s results showed that among African American men, incarceration history was positively associated with perceived discrimination, depressive symptoms, and psychological distress. Everyday discrimination fully mediated the associations between incarceration history and both depressive symptoms and psychological distress. Discrimination may play an important role in the mental health problems of African American men with a history of incarceration. These findings have public policy implications as well as clinical implications for mental health promotion of African American men. Policies that reduce preventable incarceration or at least reduce subsequent discrimination for those who have been incarcerated may enhance mental health of previously incarcerated African American men.