Perceived discrimination in the workplace and mental health from early adulthood to midlife

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Considerable evidence demonstrates that perceiving oneself as an object of discrimination has negative consequences for mental health. However, little is known about whether this experience is more or less harmful in distinct phases of the life course, consistent with the life course principle of timing; or whether, in accord with the principle of lifespan development, it has long-term implications. We draw on longitudinal data addressing perceived workplace discrimination based on race/ethnicity and gender from the prospective Youth Development Study, covering early adulthood to midlife. Hierarchical linear modelling of the effects of discrimination on depressed mood indicates that both forms of discrimination have short-term (within life stages) and long-term (across stages) adverse effects on adult mental health. The impacts of perceived discrimination within stages on depressed mood appear to be greatest in the mid-30s and to weaken by midlife. Lingering effects of discrimination are more pronounced early on. These patterns are observed with controls for key time-varying negative experiences at work and personal socio-economic status, as well as invariant background characteristics (gender, race and parental socio-economic status). We consider these findings in relation to the dynamics of personal change in the context of occupational careers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)22-47
Number of pages26
JournalLongitudinal and Life Course Studies
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Additional support was provided by the Life Course Center,the Department of Sociology, the College of Liberal Arts, and LATIS (Liberal Arts Technologies and Information Services) at the University of Minnesota. Special thanks are due to Abbey Hammell, who administered the 2019 YDS data collection, and to Erin Daniel for excellent bibliographic assistance.

Funding Information:
The Youth Development Study was supported by grants,Work Experience and Mental Health:A Panel Study of Youth,from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (HD44138) and the National Institute of Mental Health (MH42843).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023, Bristol University Press. All rights reserved.


  • discrimination
  • gender
  • life course
  • mental health
  • occupational career
  • race/ethnicity
  • socioeconomic status

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural


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