Racial Discrimination is Associated with Acute Posttraumatic Stress Symptoms and Predicts Future Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Symptom Severity in Trauma‐Exposed Black Adults in the United States

Journal of Traumatic Stress

Claire M. Bird, E. Kate Webb, Andrew T. Schramm, Lucas Torres, Christine Larson, Terri A. deRoon‐Cassini



In the United States, Black residents exposed to a traumatic event are at an increased risk of developing posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and experiencing more severe symptoms compared to their non‐Hispanic White counterparts. Although previous work has suggested a link between racial discrimination and PTSD symptoms, no studies have assessed this association in a sample of traumatic injury survivors. The current study investigated whether (a) past racial discrimination was associated with acute posttraumatic stress symptoms (PTSS) and (b) discrimination prospectively contributed to the prediction of future PTSD symptoms. African American and/or Black patients (N = 113) were recruited from an emergency department in southeastern Wisconsin. Patients in the acute postinjury phase (i.e., 2 weeks posttrauma) completed self‐report measures, with PTSD symptoms assessed using the Clinician‐Administered PTSD Scale at 6‐month follow‐up. Bivariate associations indicated past racial discrimination was significantly related to acute PTSS. A multiple regression analysis revealed that pretrauma exposure to racial discrimination significantly predicted PTSD symptoms at follow‐up, even after controlling for age, gender, previous psychiatric diagnosis, social support, and lifetime trauma history. Our results suggest that experiences of racial discrimination add significant additional risk for PTSD symptom development following traumatic injury, R2 = .16, F(6, 106) = 3.25, p = .006. Broadly, these findings add to the body of empirical evidence and personal testimonies of Black individuals in White‐centric societies asserting that racial discrimination affects mental health and overall well‐being and further highlight the recent call for racism to be classified as a public health crisis.

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