Prejudice Can Cause Depression, According to New Study
Posted Nov 10 2012 1:00pm
Prejudice and depression have a connection. The stereotypes we hold about others that lead to prejudice are very similar to the thoughts we have about ourselves that can cause depression, says a new study published in the journal of the Association for Psychological Science.
Prejudice and Depression
The path to prejudice and the path to depression are startlingly similar in that they are both:
difficult to change
Study authors proposed the following question:
“I really hate _____. I hate the way _____ look. I hate the way _____ talk.”
This fill-in-the-blank statement could easily express prejudice toward a group, such as, “I really hate black people. I hate the way gay men look. I hate the way Jews talk.” In actuality, the statement represents a depressed person speaking about herself. “I really hate me. I hate the way I look. I hate the way I talk.”
The study was led by William Cox of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and is published in the September 2012 issue of the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science. The researchers offer an integrated perspective of prejudice and depression. Stereotypes, they say, are activated in a “source,” and the source expresses prejudice toward a “target.” Study authors call the resulting depression “deprejudice,” a phenomenon that can happen in several ways.
Deprejudice can occur on a sweeping societal scale, such as when a large group (the source) discriminates against another group (the target), triggering depression among individuals in the target group. It can also happen on an interpersonal level, when one person targets one other person, or on an intrapersonal level, when one individual’s prejudice against the self-causes depression.
It is important to note that this study involves only cases of depression caused by negative thoughts people have about others or about themselves. The researchers did not intend this study to address depression due to genetic or medical reasons.
Cognitive Behavior Therapy
Understanding the root of the problem may help advance treatment of people suffering from depression. Cognitive behavior therapy and mindfulness training, both used by depression researchers, may prove beneficial in helping people to overcome prejudice. Additionally, therapies used by prejudice researchers may help to treat people suffering from depression due to prejudice of self.
Researchers generally approach prejudice and depression independently, but the close relationship between the two shown by this study may lead to important new avenues of research.