David H. Chae, ScD
Does discrimination increase the risk of disease? A socio-psychobiological approach to addressing health disparities
Dr. Chae’s research focuses on the negative health effects of socially oppressive systems, expressed in processes such as discrimination and dimensions of self- and group-identity. Accordingly, systems of oppression, such as racism, classism, and sexism, serve to legitimize acts of discrimination again racial/ethnic minorities, the poor, and women; and increasingly, research has suggested that such experiences of discrimination have negative health implications. Less studied, however, are the effects that such systems have directly on members of marginalized groups, including how people view themselves, their social groups, and their memberships in those groups. This model posits that issues of discrimination and identity are intimately related as they are both engendered by systems of oppression, and that relationships between discrimination and health can be better understood within the context of an identity framework.
In various studies, Dr. Chae found evidence for the negative effects of various forms of social discrimination on health, including discrimination based on race/ethnicity, sexuality, and gender. Notably, he also found that the nature of the relationship between discrimination varied by dimensions of identity. Findings from his work suggest that having a positive sense of personal/group identity buffers the negative effects of discrimination on mental health, health behaviors, and physical health outcomes. In addition, his work suggests that the meaning of discrimination and its significance for health may vary by dimensions of identity.
Dr. Chae is currently the principal investigator of a study investigating socio-psychobiological pathways associated with cardiovascular health. This study aims to examine racial discrimination and dimensions of racial identity in relation to cardiovascular health outcomes among African American men. As part of this study, he is collecting data on biological markers of inflammation and cellular aging, as well as examining potential psychological mediators, including cognitive and affective responses to racism. Results from this study may provide evidence for the direct effects of discrimination and identity on the regulation of biological systems and processes through which social hazards are embodied.