Racial/ethnic discrimination is associated disparate health outcomes among racial/ethnic minorities. Theory and empirical evidence suggest that stress associated with experiencing discrimination can lead to the adoption of unhealthy behaviors such as poor diet, tobacco and alcohol use. Our study sought to explore the relationship between discrimination, stress and health behaviors among Latinos in both rural and urban settings in Washington state. Latinos were recruited for the study through community based organizations serving Latinos in both Seattle (urban) and the lower Yakima valley (rural). The sample of 40 participants included both men and women, United States and foreign-born, and a broad age range (20 – 70). Qualitative in-depth interviews were conducted in participants’ preferred language (Spanish or English). Interviews were transcribed, entered into Atlas. ti and coded for analysis. Analysis allowed for deductive codes based on theory and previous literature, as well as deductive codes that emerged from the data. Transcripts were also analyzed to identify differences by urban/rural setting, language use and immigrant status. The analysis revealed several key themes related to types of discrimination, health effects of discrimination and stress, and coping strategies. The majority of the participants had experienced discrimination in their lifetime, most often related to their race/ethnicity or language use. Settings in which discrimination occurred included work, school, and when seeking services. Common reactions to discrimination were to avoid it, ignore it, talk with someone about it, or pray about it. Respondents also reported that discrimination and other stressors influenced their sleeping habits, diet, physical activity, smoking and alcohol use. The findings reveal important relationships between discrimination, stress and behavioral risk factors for cancer. The results can inform future research on the health impact of discrimination among Latinos, including the measurement of discrimination and stress.

Citation Information: Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 2010;19(10 Suppl):B34.