- Published on May 22, 2007
- Contact Diane Swanbrow
Jackson, who directs the U-M Institute for Social Research (ISR), will speak on "Understanding Race Differences in Health Disparities: The Psychology of Self-Regulation."
His presentation will focus on a new theory suggesting how the stress of daily living may have different physical and mental health effects among different race and ethnic groups. The theory aims to reconcile a series of puzzling empirical findings about racial and ethnic health disparities. On the one hand, research has established, African Americans have worse physical health and higher mortality rates than non-Hispanic whites.
On the other hand, even though African Americans have higher rates of psychological distress and depressive symptoms, they suffer from rates of mental disorders that are similar to or lower than those of non-Hispanic whites.
How, Jackson explores, can African Americans be doing worse physically and yet seem to be doing better emotionally?
Under stressful living conditions, he says, individuals not only engage in a wide range of positive coping behaviors, but also often engage in negative behaviors including smoking, alcohol use and abuse, drug use and chronic overeating that serve as self-medication. The acceptance and prevalence of these negative coping behaviors differs by age and gender as well as by race and ethnicity. Unlike positive coping behaviors, these attempts to self-medicate may interfere with or mask the physiological cascade of stressful responses through the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenalcortical (HPA) axis.
As a result of blocking these stress responses, Blacks and other racial and ethnic groups who may rely on negative coping behaviors may have lower rates of mental disorders than whites. But the eventual effects of engaging in these negative coping behaviors, combined with the direct impact of chronic financial problems, poor housing, discrimination and other stressful living conditions themselves, contribute to higher rates of serious physical health problems and mortality, Jackson suggests.
The James McKeen Cattell Fellow Award recognizes APS members for a lifetime of outstanding contributions to the area of applied psychological research, and whose research addresses a critical problem in society at large.
Calling Jackson "a genuine pioneer in the social sciences," the award citation notes that his "historical, cultural, and social-psychological studies have greatly increased our understanding of race relations around the world."
Established in 1948, the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research (ISR) is among the world's oldest academic survey research organizations, and a world leader in the development and application of social science methodology. ISR conducts some of the most widely-cited studies in the nation, including the Reuters/University of Michigan Surveys of Consumers, the American National Election Studies, the Monitoring the Future Study, the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, the Health and Retirement Study, and the National Survey of Black Americans. ISR researchers also collaborate with social scientists in more than 60 nations on the World Values Surveys and other projects, and the Institute has established formal ties with universities in Poland, China and South Africa. ISR is also home to the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR), the world's largest computerized social science data archive. Visit the ISR web site at www.isr.umich.edu for more information.