An Examination of the Black-White Mental Health Paradox




Berles, Kaylena

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Despite lower socioeconomic status and greater environmental stress, Black Americans exhibit more robust mental health than their White counterparts. This surprising relationship between race, socioeconomic status, and mental health has been documented and labeled as the Black-White mental health paradox. Though many hypotheses have been proposed, the reasons behind this paradox are not fully known. This thesis delineates current proposed explanations of the paradox including the somatization, social and family support, religiosity, self-regulation, and self-esteem hypotheses, as well as examines ways in which culture and access to healthcare may be influencing the paradox. Both religiosity and self-esteem are notable in their promise to explain the paradox, and identification with a racial group has the power to influence both of these factors. Given the complexity of the Black-White mental health paradox, further investigation is needed both to identify novel theories and to continue testing previously proposed mechanisms.



Mental health., Race., Racial mental health paradox., Sociology., Culture., Healthcare utilization., Black-White mental health paradox.