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Racism may be making our kids unhealthy

College banners hang in the classroom of teacher Chrys Latham, as she leads a senior advisory period, at Washington Latin Public Charter School, in Northwest Washington, D.C., October 23, 2015.
Allison Shelley | For The Washington Post | Getty Images

Racism damages our children's health, a recent study found, negatively affecting the wellness of wealthy white kids and poor minorities the most.

The study, which will be presented this weekend by lead author Dr. Ashaunta Anderson, found kids who endured racism had lower levels of general health, including higher rates of anxiety, depression and ADHD.

The study isn't the first to explore racism's link to physical health. Past studies have tied racism to weight gain, aging and even asthma. But Anderson, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of California-Riverside, said her study gets closer to proving racism may actually cause negative health outcomes because it adjusts for other factors.

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Researchers said the link between racism and health is significant. However, they can't be 100% sure racism is the cause unless more thorough experimenting is done.

The study used parental survey data of about 100,000 children in a 2011-12 national study. Parents or guardians were asked about children's health as well as whether they've been "judged or treated unfairly" because of their race or ethnicity.

Parents, Anderson explained, were 5% less likely to report a child in excellent health if they had experienced racism. Exposure to racism, the study found, also raised the likelihood of ADHD by about 3%. The study also found racial discrimination doubled the odds of a child having anxiety or depression.

Anderson found it notable how racism affected kids when socioeconomics were considered.

Racism most impacted low-income blacks, high-income whites and low-income "others," which included any ethnicities that fall outside of black, Hispanic or white. The three groups all experienced high, but similar dips in "excellent health" reports when racism was at play.

Anderson said the impact on high-income whites was "very unexpected."