Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

You are here

Stress from different discriminations

Porkchop's picture

For my project, I would like to study the contact zones among people who identify as minorities.  There are clashes between people of different races, genders, and sexualities; I would like to connect the groups in this contact zone.  To do this, I will record the responses of people who face discrimination and struggles for different reasons - race, religion, gender, sexuality - and note how their health is affected by this.  In my health psychology class, we looked at the health effects of stress.  Excessive stress can damage the immune system over time and make someone more susceptible to infection and viruses; however, this depends on their appraisal of stress.  If someone perceives stress as a challenge, they actually are not as vulnerable as someone who perceives stress as a threat.  Appraising stress as a challenge depends on someone's perceived personal control.  When someone faces discrimination and struggles that they have no control over, it is harder for them to perceive this as a challenge.  They cannot stop it from happening, and they feel helpless.  Therefore, their susceptibility for disease is higher than those who face stressors that do not inhibit their personal control.

Studies have shown that people of color have higher risk for developing heart disease and other health issues because of the racial struggles that they face - I want to see if this idea can be applied for religious minorities, transgender people, and LGBTQ+ people as well.  Since all of these groups face discrimination and deal with struggles every day as well, even though these struggles are different, I want to try and make a connection that bridges the differences between these groups of people.  The contact zone formed by their differences would most likely be minimized and bring more people together.  To do this, I would conduct anonymous surveys that ask people how they identify racially, sexually, religiously, etc. and whether or not they face discrimination or feel distressed because of these identities.  Then, I can ask them to mark how they appraise the distress, and if it hinders their everyday life and functioning.  That way, I could make a connection between people in different groups because of the stress they endure and the health problems they face. 


jccohen's picture


These are deep, important, and hard questions and connections you’re raising.  The strategy you’re suggesting – anonymous surveys – do strike me as methodologically problematic, though.  Is the core of your interest in the relationship between minoritized/oppressed identities and health issues?  What do you think about talking with people on campus who are connected with these issues, such as Stephanie Nixon in Pennsby and someone in the counseling center?  And might you have a conversation with your health psych professor about these questions?  Those steps might help to establish a foundation from which to do some more on-the-ground investigating about your topic…  what do you think?

On another note, one pair is doing a project that looks to me related to yours.  Check it out:


If you'd like to contact this pair to see whether you might work as a three-some with each of you pursuing your area of particular interest, that's fine; also fine if you prefer to work on your own.

I look forward to how your project will develop!