Title

Race and Psychological Distress: The South African Stress and Health Study

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

12-1-2010

Description

We analyze data from the South African Stress and Health Study, a nationally representative in-person psychiatric epidemiologic survey of 4,351 adults conducted as part of the World Mental Health Survey Initiative between January 2002 and June 2004. All blacks (Africans, Coloreds, and Indians) initially report higher levels of non-specific distress and anger/hostility than whites. Access to socioeconomic resources helps explain differences in non-specific distress between Coloreds and whites and Indians and whites. However, only when social stressors are considered do we find few differences in psychological distress (i.e., non-specific distress and anger/hostility) between Africans and whites. In addition, self-esteem and mastery have independent effects on non-specific distress and anger/hostility, but differences between Coloreds and whites in feelings of anger/hostility are not completely explained by self-esteem and mastery. The findings contribute to the international body of work on social stress theory, challenge underlying assumptions of the minority status perspective, and raise a series of questions regarding mental health disparities among South Africans.

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