A study that was published about a year ago in the journal, Psychological Medicine, caught our eye recently. It compared black women, both African-American women and Afro-Caribbean women, to white women, including Hispanics, to determine if they experienced the same rates of PMDD (premenstrual dysphoric disorder.)
What the study found was somewhat surprising: black women were less than half as likely as white women to have PMDD, which is the most severe form of PMS. They were also 36% less likely to have any premenstrual symptoms at all, meaning they had over one-third less risk of PMS-type symptoms compared to Caucasians and Latinas. This health advantage for black African-American women had never before been shown in any research.
African-Americans Have Less Mental Illness
What is even more surprising, at least to those not familiar with the subject, is that this research is consistent with previous research showing that there is less depression in black African-Americans and less mental illness in black women than in Caucasians. Because the U.S.’s black population overall is subjected to economic hardship and discrimination to a greater degree than most whites, this result seems surprising. But the psychology of black women shows that there must be some factor—perhaps genetic—that is protective for African-American women against depression.
All of this is especially surprising in light of our recent post showing that minority women who perceive discrimination are more susceptible to PMDD. In some ways this is counterintuitive, but it may show the power of discrimination: minority women who appeared less susceptible to PMDD seem to become more susceptible when they perceived discrimination. This result also suggests that not all black African-American women feel they are subject to discrimination.
In my practice, I’ve found that women of color, whether African-American or Latina, are often less comfortable talking about depression-like symptoms such as PMDD because it is less acceptable in their culture, whereas physical symptoms of PMS and PMDD such as cramps and pain, and physical symptoms of depression such as fatigue, are easier to acknowledge and discuss.
Whether symptoms are physical, emotional, or both, the kind of holistic support program we use in our practice and at PMS Comfort addresses health at all levels: body, mind, and spirit.