Methods: Mixed-effects negative binomial regression analyses were performed on data selected from six waves of the Health and Retirement Study (2006-2016; baseline N=1144). The number of depressive symptoms was calculated based on an 8-item CES-D measure. Everyday discrimination was measured by using a 6-item scale. Contact with and perceived support from extended family and friends were assessed.
Results: Older African Americans who experienced more frequent perceived discrimination had more depressive symptoms over time. Significant interactions between discrimination and perceived support from extended family and friends were found, indicating that among older African Americans who reported higher support from extended family or friend, perceived discrimination was positively associated with depressive symptoms over time. However, perceived discrimination and depressive symptoms were not longitudinally related among those who reported low levels of perceived support.
Conclusions and Implications: This is one of the few studies to examine the effects of discrimination on depressive symptoms over time and the first longitudinal study to test the role of social support in coping with discrimination in older African Americans. This study extends cross-sectional works on discrimination and mental health, indicating that experiences of discrimination can result in worse mental health over time. The significant interactions are consistent with the resource mobilization framework, which suggests that individuals who are more negatively affected by discrimination (more depressive symptoms) are more likely to reach out to friends and family to cope with discrimination.