Project Title

Racial Discrimination, Psychache, and Perceived Vitality in Diverse College Students: Is Mindfulness Protective?

Authors' Affiliations

Shana Byerley, Department of Psychology, East Tennessee State University, Johnson City, TN Heather Altier, Department of Psychology, East Tennessee State University, Johnson City, TN Claudia Colpo, Department of Psychology, East Tennessee State University, Johnson City, TN Jameson Hirsch, Department of Psychology, East Tennessee State University, Johnson City, TN Edward Chang, Department of Psychology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI Elizabeth Jeglic, Department of Psychology, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, New York City, NY

Faculty Sponsor’s Department

Psychology

Type

Oral Competitive

Classification of First Author

Graduate Student-Doctoral

Project's Category

Psychology

Abstract Text

According to the Minority Stress Model, racist or discriminatory experiences can have negative downstream effects on mental and physical health. For example, perceived ethnic discrimination is associated with increased negative emotion and distress, including feelings of guilt and shame; such characteristics may contribute to the development of psychache, or unbearable psychological pain. In turn, subjective vitality, which is considered a dynamic indicator of physical (e.g., feeling energetic, alert) and psychological (e.g., thriving, purposefulness) well-being, may be eroded. Yet, adaptive individual-level cognitive-emotional mechanisms may buffer the negative effects of discrimination on well-being. One such protective factor is mindfulness, or the nonjudgmental awareness of moment-to-moment experience, which can ameliorate stressful reactions to challenging situations and emotional pain.

At the bivariate level, we hypothesized that discrimination and psychache would be positively related, and that both variables would be negatively related to mindfulness and vitality. At the multivariate level, we predicted that psychache would mediate the relation between discrimination and vitality, such that experienced discrimination would be associated with greater psychache and, in turn, to less vitality. We also hypothesized that mindfulness would moderate all linkages, reducing risk.

Our sample of U.S. college students (n=2,106) was collected from a Northeastern urban university and was primarily female (n=1,571, 74.7%) and Hispanic (n=1,289, 61.2%; Black: n=454, 21.6%; Asian: n=363, 17.2%). Participants completed self-report measures, including the Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire, Subjective Vitality Scale, Psychache Scale, and General Ethnic Discrimination Scale. Bivariate correlations and moderated-mediation analyses were conducted, in each ethnic/racial group, covarying age and sex.

In bivariate analyses, all variables were significantly related in hypothesized directions (p<.05). ANOVAs revealed that ethnic groups varied significantly on discrimination (F(2, 1772=8.35, p<.001), vitality (F(2, 1806)=5.28, p<.01), and mindfulness (F(2, 1779)=9.70, p<.001). Blacks (M=35.95) and Asians (M=36.10) reported greater discrimination than Hispanics (M=32.29), t(1775)=3.66, p<.05; t(1775)=3.81, p<.05. Hispanics (M=4.81) reported higher vitality than Asians (M=4.55), t(1809)=.26, p<.05. Blacks (M=125.79) reported greater mindfulness than both Hispanics (M=122.95) and Asians (M=120.19) (t(1782)=2.83, p<.05; t(1782)=5.60, p<.05). In mediation analyses, the total effect of discrimination on vitality was significant (Asian: t=-2.36, p<.05; Black: t=-2.87, p<.01; Hispanic: t=-5.14, p<.001), and the direct effect was nonsignificant when psychache was added (Asian: t=.42, p=.68; Black: t=-.23, p=.82; Hispanic: t=-.02, p=.98), indicating mediation. In moderated-mediation analyses, the linkage between discrimination and psychache was weakened by mindfulness (Black: a2=-.005[-.009, -.002], t=-2.77, p<.01; Hispanic: a2=-.003[-.005, -.001], t=-2.38, p=<.01; Asian: a2=-.008[-.012, -.003], t=-3.48, p<.001). Among Asians, mindfulness also buffered the association between psychache and vitality (b2=-.001[-.002, -.001], t=-3.60, p<.001).

Across racial/ethnic groups, we found that, for college students who experienced discrimination, psychological pain may be exacerbated, with consequent deleterious impact on vitality. Yet, for all groups, mindfulness weakened the discrimination-psychache linkage and, for Asians, who reported the lowest mindfulness levels, weakened the psychache-vitality linkage. Our findings suggest the benefits of mindfulness for psychosocial functioning in the context of ethnic/racial discrimination. Interventions to reduce psychache (e.g., cognitive restructuring) and enhance mindful awareness (e.g., meditation, acceptance and commitment therapy) may promote physical and mental vitality indicating wellbeing, in college students experiencing discrimination.

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Racial Discrimination, Psychache, and Perceived Vitality in Diverse College Students: Is Mindfulness Protective?

According to the Minority Stress Model, racist or discriminatory experiences can have negative downstream effects on mental and physical health. For example, perceived ethnic discrimination is associated with increased negative emotion and distress, including feelings of guilt and shame; such characteristics may contribute to the development of psychache, or unbearable psychological pain. In turn, subjective vitality, which is considered a dynamic indicator of physical (e.g., feeling energetic, alert) and psychological (e.g., thriving, purposefulness) well-being, may be eroded. Yet, adaptive individual-level cognitive-emotional mechanisms may buffer the negative effects of discrimination on well-being. One such protective factor is mindfulness, or the nonjudgmental awareness of moment-to-moment experience, which can ameliorate stressful reactions to challenging situations and emotional pain.

At the bivariate level, we hypothesized that discrimination and psychache would be positively related, and that both variables would be negatively related to mindfulness and vitality. At the multivariate level, we predicted that psychache would mediate the relation between discrimination and vitality, such that experienced discrimination would be associated with greater psychache and, in turn, to less vitality. We also hypothesized that mindfulness would moderate all linkages, reducing risk.

Our sample of U.S. college students (n=2,106) was collected from a Northeastern urban university and was primarily female (n=1,571, 74.7%) and Hispanic (n=1,289, 61.2%; Black: n=454, 21.6%; Asian: n=363, 17.2%). Participants completed self-report measures, including the Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire, Subjective Vitality Scale, Psychache Scale, and General Ethnic Discrimination Scale. Bivariate correlations and moderated-mediation analyses were conducted, in each ethnic/racial group, covarying age and sex.

In bivariate analyses, all variables were significantly related in hypothesized directions (p<.05). ANOVAs revealed that ethnic groups varied significantly on discrimination (F(2, 1772=8.35, p<.001), vitality (F(2, 1806)=5.28, p<.01), and mindfulness (F(2, 1779)=9.70, p<.001). Blacks (M=35.95) and Asians (M=36.10) reported greater discrimination than Hispanics (M=32.29), t(1775)=3.66, p<.05; t(1775)=3.81, p<.05. Hispanics (M=4.81) reported higher vitality than Asians (M=4.55), t(1809)=.26, p<.05. Blacks (M=125.79) reported greater mindfulness than both Hispanics (M=122.95) and Asians (M=120.19) (t(1782)=2.83, p<.05; t(1782)=5.60, p<.05). In mediation analyses, the total effect of discrimination on vitality was significant (Asian: t=-2.36, p<.05; Black: t=-2.87, p<.01; Hispanic: t=-5.14, p<.001), and the direct effect was nonsignificant when psychache was added (Asian: t=.42, p=.68; Black: t=-.23, p=.82; Hispanic: t=-.02, p=.98), indicating mediation. In moderated-mediation analyses, the linkage between discrimination and psychache was weakened by mindfulness (Black: a2=-.005[-.009, -.002], t=-2.77, p<.01; Hispanic: a2=-.003[-.005, -.001], t=-2.38, p=<.01; Asian: a2=-.008[-.012, -.003], t=-3.48, p<.001). Among Asians, mindfulness also buffered the association between psychache and vitality (b2=-.001[-.002, -.001], t=-3.60, p<.001).

Across racial/ethnic groups, we found that, for college students who experienced discrimination, psychological pain may be exacerbated, with consequent deleterious impact on vitality. Yet, for all groups, mindfulness weakened the discrimination-psychache linkage and, for Asians, who reported the lowest mindfulness levels, weakened the psychache-vitality linkage. Our findings suggest the benefits of mindfulness for psychosocial functioning in the context of ethnic/racial discrimination. Interventions to reduce psychache (e.g., cognitive restructuring) and enhance mindful awareness (e.g., meditation, acceptance and commitment therapy) may promote physical and mental vitality indicating wellbeing, in college students experiencing discrimination.

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