Police Encounters as Stressors: Associations with Depression and Anxiety across Race

Sirry Alang, Donna McAlpine, Malcolm McClain

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


Stress researchers have emphasized the relationship between social stress and mental health. However, research investigating police brutality as a stressor is scarce. The authors conceptualize police brutality as a stressor, examining racial variation in its effects on mental health. Data came from the Survey of the Health of Urban Residents in the United States (n = 4,389). Negative encounters with the police were found to be associated with depressed mood and anxiety. The relationship between encounters with the police and depressed mood was stronger among Black respondents and Latinxs compared with Whites. Regardless of personal encounters with the police, the anticipatory stress of police brutality—concern that one might become a victim of police brutality—was associated with depression and anxiety. These findings highlight police brutality as an anticipatory stressor and have implications for whiteness as a resource that protects from the stress of negative police encounters.

Original languageEnglish (US)
StatePublished - Mar 9 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2021.


  • anticipatory stressors
  • mental health
  • police brutality


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