A Methodological Note on Modeling the Effects of Race

The Case of Psychological Distress

Previous studies have shown differences in the levels of psychological distress between certain racial or ethnic groups. It's possible that psychological distress represents an important factor in why racial disparities exist in a number of health care situations. Psychological distress is also a critical predictor of the health and well-being of society as a whole. This study examines a nationally representative multiracial/ethnic sample of 3,623 adults from the 1994 Minority Health Survey. Psychological distress was measured using the five-item Mental Health Inventory. The authors examined the data to assess the influences of race, income and gender in predicting psychological distress.

Key findings:

  • There were no significant statistical differences in distress levels between racial groups.
  • Racial differences in psychological distress, however, did vary when income was introduced into the model.
  • Blacks experienced declining levels of distress with higher incomes.
  • Hispanic men generally have lower levels of psychological distress, which may be due to their coping strategies and social support systems.

These findings make an important contribution to the study of racial differences in health, and underscore the significance of using multiplicative models to assess the data.