The Influence of Hope on the Relationship between Racial Discrimination and Depressive Symptoms

Article excerpt

This study investigated how hope influences the relationship between discrimination and depressive symptoms. Results from participants' (N = 318) responses suggest that increased levels of hope were directly related to decreased levels of depressive symptoms. However, increased levels of hope were also related to a stronger relationship between discrimination and depressive symptoms.

Este estudio investigo como la esperanza influye en la relacion entre discriminacion y sintomas depresivos. Los resultados obtenidos a partir de las respuestas de los participantes (N= 318) sugieren que unos niveles mas elevados de esperanza estuvieron directamente relacionados con unos niveles mas bajos de sintomas depresivos. Sin embargo, los niveles superiores de esperanza tambien estuvieron relacionados con una relacion mas fuerte entre discriminacion y sintomas depresivos.


Within the past 2 decades, research on the effects of discrimination on mental health has increased. These studies have indicated that increased exposure to discrimination is related to increased reporting of psychiatric problems, in particular, depressive symptoms (Banks & Kohn-Wood, 2007; Banks, Kohn-Wood, Spencer, 2006; Kessler, Mickelson, & Williams, 1999). The field has progressed from assessing the frequency of experiences of discrimination across racial and ethnic populations to understanding cognitive variables that might influence the experience and outcomes associated with discriminatory events. Counseling psychologists have called for research investigating variables that affect the experience of discrimination with the hope that this understanding can inform and guide work with targeted populations (Barnes & Lightsey, 2005; Fischer & Shaw, 1999). The goal of the present study was to build on the current theoretical and empirical knowledge regarding the association of discrimination and depressive symptoms and to investigate how hope may influence this relationship in African American students. In addition, as the diversity of college students who use counseling services increases (Davidson, Yakushka, & Sanford-Martens, 2004), it is important to consider within-group experiences that might inform work with diverse populations.

racial discrimination

Racial discrimination, or differential treatment of individuals on the basis of race, has changed over time and is now less overt (e.g., being ignored/ overlooked while waiting in line, being mistaken for someone who serves others) than earlier forms of discrimination .(e.g., lynching, being denied service at a restaurant; Harrell, 2000). However, even less severe incidents may be stressful, leading to feelings of resignation and hopelessness (Deitch et al., 2003; Harrell, 2000). Chronically stressful or discriminatory events can accumulate over time, resulting in decreased levels of mental health (Deitch et al., 2003; McGonagle & Kessler, 1990). In particular, this study examines racial discrimination experienced in the context of everyday experiences (e.g., being ignored, overlooked, or not given service; Harrell, 2000).

Although discrimination is a negative experience that is common to many groups in the United States, African Americans are more likely to report experiencing racial discrimination than are other racial and ethnic groups (Kessler et al., 1999). In one study, researchers found that 44.4% of non-Hispanic Whites, as compared with only 8.8% of non-Hispanic Blacks, reported that they had never experienced a daily discriminatory event (Kessler et al., 1999). A recent survey found that over 75% of college students (i.e., African American, White, Hispanic, and Asian American students) agreed that "racial hostility is still felt although not openly expressed" (Biasco, Goodwin, & Vitale, 2001, p. 527). The experience of discrimination continues to be prevalent in the lives of African Americans.

Although research has indicated a consistent link between discrimination and decreased levels of mental health, not everyone who experiences discrimination has decreased mental health. …