6 Illnesses Which Affect Black People More Than Other Races (& Why You Should Be Aware Of Them)

6 Illnesses Which Affect Black People More Than Other Races (& Why You Should Be Aware Of Them)

Lung Cancer

African American Patient

One fact has been a huge puzzle for doctors and medical researchers: Black men smoke less tobacco than their white counterparts, but they’re between 30% to 50% more likely to get lung cancer.

Why is that?

Most likely, it’s a number of factors working together. These could be:

  • Genetics
  • The high rate of smoking menthol cigarettes among African Americans
  • Air pollution in living and working environments
  • Differences in treatment

The number one measure you can take to reduce your risk of lung cancer is to stop smoking, if you do smoke.


African American Young Woman Suffering From Asthma

WebMD reports that African-Americans are three times more likely to die from asthma than white Americans.

In addition, ABC News reported that researchers from the University of California studied a group of nearly 700 asthma sufferers, some black, some white. They found that black Americans were much more likely to be hospitalized or visit emergency rooms for asthma.

But why is this?

The researchers from California thought that it might be because of genetic differences. This would mean that black people were more genetically disposed to having severe asthma than white people. But other experts in the field, such as Dr Lauren Smith, says that socioeconomic factors such as segregation or racism in the neighborhood, air quality, and housing quality can play a big role in asthma management. She says ‘the experience of race is complicated’, meaning that some effects of being black in America could have been overlooked by the study.

Another study by the Cleveland Clinic found that African Americans are more likely to receive poor medical care for their asthma. They might be diagnosed with another condition, not receive adequate follow-up care, and not receive the inhaled corticosteroids they need to manage their condition.

Some factors that contribute to asthma are controllable, and some are not. The CDC has their own guidelines on how asthma should be treated, while the NIH provides an Asthma Action Plan you can fill out with your doctor to make sure you’re receiving all the advice you need on how to manage your asthma.

Mental Health Issues

Black Woman Patient Visiting Psychologist

In both the US and the UK, black people are more likely than other races to be diagnosed with mental illnesses. But this is not caused by genetics. It is caused by environment. We know this because Africa and the Caribbean have average mental health levels in comparison with other countries. It is actually a unique problem experienced by black people who live in white-majority societies.

The NHS (the UK health body) recognizes that everyday life has a huge effect on mental health, and that black communities from the UK are still discriminated against in areas such as housing and employment, and face direct racism. All of these can contribute to mental illness. The NHS also notes that black people who migrate to predominantly white countries have an elevated risk of mental illness, and that risk is even higher for their children.

In the US, Mental Health America reports that African Americans are more likely to report suffering from serious psychological distress than whites, at a rate of 20%. They also report that African Americans living below the poverty line are 3x more likely to report serious mental distress than those above the poverty line. That leads them to the conclusion that historical adversity – including sharecropping, slavery, and exclusion from social, economic, educational and health resources on the grounds of race – translates into the socioeconomic disparities experienced by African Americans in the present day. This is linked to mental health. They also mention that racism has adverse effects on mental health.

To avoid mental illness, it’s important to take care of your mental health. The University of Michigan’s University Health Service has put together a list of 10 ways you can do just that.

6 Illnesses Which Affect Black People More Than Other Races (& Why You Should Be Aware Of Them)

Black woman with her doctor

Now you’re aware of the different illnesses which affect black people more than other races. Plus, you can take steps toward making sure you stay healthy.

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