Discrimination, alcohol, tobacco tied to panic attacks in minorities

Washington D.C.: A new study has linked discrimination, alcohol and tobacco to panic attacks among minority Americans.

Researchers from the University of Alabama studied demographic and socioeconomic variables in relation to panic attacks among African-Americans, Afro-Caribbeans, Hispanics and Asians.

Although there is a body of research on the harmful effects of negative altercations on mental health, knowledge gaps persist around immigrant health, said Assistant Professor Henna Budhwani.

Budhwani added that immigrants, particularly those who are undocumented, are often resistant to speak to researchers for fear of deportation or police engagement. Furthermore, some may not speak English fluently, making communication difficult.

Racial and ethnic minorities and women who encounter discriminatory sentiments and actions are more likely to experience panic attacks. When minority Americans are treated as dishonest or less smart or are disrespected, threatened or called names, they are more likely to meet the criteria of having a panic attack.

The study also found that minority Americans are more likely to experience panic attacks when they smoke or consume excessive amounts of alcohol. In the study, those who abused alcohol are two times more likely to have a panic attack. Smokers have a 52 percent higher chance than nonsmokers of having a panic attack.

Budhwani noted that they hope the work not only enhances the existing academic literature, but also is translated into public health practice through interventions, which aim to assist to improve the well-being of racial and ethnic minorities.