The mental health of US Black women: The roles of social context and severe intimate partner violence

Krim K. Lacey, Regina Parnell, Dawne M. Mouzon, Niki Matusko, Doreen Head, Jamie M. Abelson, James S. Jackson

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18 Scopus citations


Objective: Black women continue to have rates of mental health conditions that can be negative for their well-being. This study examined the contribution of social and contextual factors and severe physical intimate partner violence on the mental health of US Black women (African-American and Caribbean Black). Setting: Data were largely collected via in-person community interviews at participants' homes. Participants: We studied 3277 African-American and Black Caribbean women from the 2001-2003 National Survey of American Life (NSAL), the largest and most complete sample of Blacks residing in the USA. Primary and secondary outcomes: Key outcomes included an array of psychiatric disorders based on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV). Results: Bivariate results revealed noticeably high rates of any anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, any substance disorder, alcohol abuse disorder, suicide ideation and attempts, and any overall mental disorder among African-American women relative to Caribbean Black women. Multiple social and contextual factors were associated with various mental disorders among both sets of Black women in multivariate models, with the most consistent associations found for severe physical intimate partner violence. Everyday discrimination was associated with anxiety disorders (95% AOR=2.08 CI 1.23 to 3.51), eating disorders (95% AOR=2.69 CI 1.38 to 5.22), and any disorder (95% AOR=2.18 CI 1.40 to 3.40), while neighbourhood drug problems contributed to mood (95% AOR=1.19 CI 1.04 to 1.36), substance disorders (95% AOR=1.37 CI 1.11 to 1.69) and any disorder (95% AOR=1.18 CI 1.03 to 1.34). Conclusions: Severe physical intimate partner violence, discrimination, and to a lesser extent, neighbourhood problems are important predictors of Black women's health, findings that inform intervention and clinical services tailored to meet the needs of Black women from diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere008415
JournalBMJ open
Issue number10
StatePublished - 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Medicine(all)

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