On SAGE Insight: Race and the Association Between Police Stops and Depression Among Young Adults

Article title: Race and the Association Between Police Stops and Depression Among Young Adults: A Research Note

From: Race and Justice

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Police stops are stressful experiences that may be harmful for health. When considered from the perspective of stress research in medical sociology and social epidemiology, police stops can be considered as acute stressors.  In this study, the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health is used to assess the association between police stops and symptoms of depression, and whether the association remains after controlling for a critical confounder—prior symptoms of depression. Authors also examine to what extent criminal behavior and justice contact account for the association. At the heart of our analysis is assessing the heterogeneous role of race.

A sample of 80 high schools and 52 middle schools from the United States was selected with unequal probability of selection. Incorporating systematic sampling methods and implicit stratification into the Add Health study design ensured this sample is representative of U.S. schools with respect to region of country. The dependent variable—depressive symptomatology—was measured using the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale (CES-D). All the analyses were adjusted for complex survey design using the recommended survey weights.

Police stops in the United States take place on a large scale, and growing public health research indicates that these interactions might have implications for mental health. This study provides evidence at the national level that police stops are associated with depressive symptoms. More specifically, having been stopped by police was related to a higher number of symptoms of depression among both White and Black young adults even after controlling for prior depression. While the association remained after accounting for criminal behavior and justice contact among Blacks, the association was fully explained by self-reported criminal behavior among Whites. The findings support the notion that racial disparities in police stops may have a racially disparate influence on the mental health of young adults.

Abstract

Police stops are stressful experiences that may be harmful for health. The present study examines the association between police stops and symptoms of depression in the National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent to Adult Health. The study sample included non-Hispanic Black (n = 2,118) and White (n = 5,629) adults aged 18–26 years surveyed in 1996 and 2001/2002. Both Black and White young adults who have been stopped by police had more symptoms of depression compared to their never stopped counterparts. Among Blacks, the association was attenuated but persisted after controlling for criminal behavior and justice contact. In contrast, among Whites, the association between police stops and depression was smaller in magnitude, and it was explained by self-reported criminal behavior. Given the frequency and the number of people in contact with police, we point to the need to sensitize police departments to potential mental health consequences of proactive policing, and the decreased willingness of the public to seek police help as a result of previous distressing encounters.

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Article details
Race and the Association Between Police Stops and Depression Among Young Adults: A Research Note
Valerio Baćak, Kathryn M. Nowotny
First Published September 16, 2018 Research Article 
DOI: 10.1177/2153368718799813
From: Race and Justice

     
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