The “fears” of mental illness among African Americans are “unjustified,” according to a new study published by the American Psychological Association (APA).
The report, published on Monday, said that the APA’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) defines “anxiety” as a fear of an imminent threat, while other mental disorders include “anorexia nervosa,” “borderline personality disorder,” and “schizophrenia.”
The APA found that African American and white people were both “significantly” more likely than people of other ethnic groups to have anxiety disorders, with African Americans reporting significantly higher rates.
The APSD-III was updated in 2015, making it stricter than the DSM-IV to identify anxiety disorders.
The new study, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, analyzed data from more than 13,000 individuals who self-identified as African American, Latino, Asian American, or other racial and ethnic groups.
The authors also looked at how anxiety disorders differed across individuals based on their geographic location and whether or not they had been diagnosed with any other mental health conditions.
The researchers found that the anxiety of African American people is not caused by a general sense of “the fear of the unknown,” as the DSM states, but instead is rooted in a specific set of cultural, religious, and personal concerns.
The study authors also found that individuals with anxiety disorders were more likely to report experiencing a mental health problem, such as an anxiety disorder or panic disorder, that they didn’t specifically describe to the APS-III.
For instance, they said that African Americans who had a “serious” mental health disorder were more than three times as likely to have a serious depressive disorder as people who had no such disorder.
“While anxiety disorders may not be as prevalent as some other mental conditions, they are important to consider when examining African American populations,” said Dr. Jody Rosenblum, the study’s lead author and an associate professor at the University of California, San Francisco.
Rosenblump and her colleagues wrote that “black Americans are more likely now than they have been in the past to be diagnosed with a serious mental health condition and to report having experienced a mental disorder at some point in their lives.”
The report comes after a rash of police shootings of African-American men in cities across the country in recent weeks.
A number of African communities, including Los Angeles and St. Louis, have been rocked by protests against the killings of unarmed black men in recent months, prompting some to call for the federal government to investigate.
Earlier this month, police in St. Paul, Minnesota, fatally shot a mentally ill black man in the back after a 911 caller claimed that the man was threatening the officer.
St. Cloud, Minnesota is also the home to the Black Lives Matter movement, which advocates for the rights of people of color in the U.S. The police shooting of Philando Castile sparked a nationwide debate about race relations in the United States.
Castile’s death, and protests in St Louis over police shootings, have prompted the United Nations to call on African nations to enact reforms to improve the treatment of people with mental illnesses.