A systematic review of how social connectedness impacts associations between racism and discrimination on health outcomes
Discrimination; Health; Health equity; Racial disparities; Racism; Social cohesion; Social connectedness
Racial discrimination is a well-known risk factor of racial disparities in health. While progress has been made in identifying multiple levels through which racism and racial discrimination influences health, less is known about social factors that may buffer racism's associations with health. We conducted a systematic review of the literature with a specific focus on social connectedness, racism, and health; retrieving studies conducted in the United States published between January 1, 2012 and July 30, 2022, in peer-reviewed journals. Of the 787 articles screened, 32 were selected for full-text synthesis. Most studies (72%) were individual-level, cross-sectional, and among community/neighborhood, school, or university samples. Studies had good methodological rigor and low risk of bias. Measures of racism and racial discrimination varied. Discrimination scales included unfair treatment due to race, schedule of racist events, experiences of lifetime discrimination, and everyday discrimination. Measures of social connectedness (or disconnectedness) varied. Social connectedness constructs included social isolation, loneliness, and social support. Mental health was the most frequently examined outcome (75%). Effect modification was used in 56% of studies and mediation in 34% of studies. In 81% of studies, at least one aspect of social connectedness significantly buffered or mediated the associations between racism and health. Negative health associations were often weaker among people with higher social connectedness. Social connectedness is an important buffering mechanism to mitigate the associations between racial discrimination and health. In future studies, harmonizing metrics of social connectedness and racial discrimination can strengthen causal claims to inform interventions.
Ransome, Yusuf; Valido, Alberto D.; Espelage, Dorothy L.; Clements, Graceson L.; Harrell, Crystal; Eckel, Caroline; Price, Natalie; Nassau, Rachel; Nyhan, Kate; and Taggart, Tamara L., "A systematic review of how social connectedness impacts associations between racism and discrimination on health outcomes" (2023). GW Authored Works. Paper 3051.
Prevention and Community Health