More than skin deep: Discrimination can influence how genes express themselves and negatively impact health

| January 4, 2017

It's no secret that discrimination is stressful for those who experience it, but turns out the issue is more than skin deep -- these stressors can interact with our genetics to negatively impact our health, a new University of Florida study shows.

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Study researchers developed a novel measure of unfair treatment to study the effects of discrimination on health, particularly with respect to racial disparities in complex diseases, which are illnesses resulting from both genetic and environmental factors. They used the measure to investigate hypertension, which is more prevalent in African-Americans, and found that discrimination interacts with certain genetic variants to alter blood pressure.

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"We've been missing a huge factor in explaining racial disparities in disease," said [Connie Mulligan, a professor at UF's department of anthropology and Genetics Institute]. "Our finding of an interaction between genetics and environment could explain why it's been so hard to identify all the risk factors for complex diseases, particularly those that have racial disparities."

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Study authors suggest genetic variants that predispose some people to depression, anxiety or suicide might also make them more sensitive to the effects of discrimination and lead to higher blood pressure.

The GLP aggregated and excerpted this blog/article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion, and analysis. Read full, original post: Discrimination interacts with genetics, impacts health

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