Racial identity and mental well-being: The experience of african american medical students, a report from the medical student CHANGE study

Rachel R. Hardeman, Sylvia P. Perry, Sean M. Phelan, Julia M. Przedworski, Diana J. Burgess, Michelle Van Ryn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Purpose Diversification of the physician workforce continues to be a national priority; however, a paucity of knowledge about the medical school experience for African American medical students limits our ability to achieve this goal. Previous studies document that African American medical students are at greater risk for depression and anxiety. This study moves beyond these findings to explore the role of racial identity (the extent to which a person normatively defines her/himself with regard to race) and its relationship to well-being forAfrican Americanmedical students in their first year of training. Methods This study used baseline data from the Medical Student Cognitive Habits and Growth Evaluation (CHANGE) Study; a large national longitudinal cohort study of 4732 medical students at 49 medical schools in the US racial identity for African American students (n=301) was assessed using the centrality sub-scale of the Multidimensional Inventory of Black Identity. Generalized linear regression models with a Poisson regression family distribution were used to estimate the relative risks of depression, anxiety, and perceived stress. Results First year African American medical students who had lower levels of racial identity were less likely to experience depressive and anxiety symptoms in their first year of medical school. After controlling for other important social predictors of poor mental health (gender and SES), this finding remained significant. Conclusions Results increase knowledge about the role of race as a core part of an individual’s self-concept. These findings provide new insight into the relationship between racial identity and psychological distress, particularly with respect to a group of high-achieving young adults.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)250-258
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 20 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Medical student
  • Racial identity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Health Policy
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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