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Does Religion Buffer the Effects of Discrimination on Mental Health? Differing Effects by Race


  • I thank Leonard Pearlin for his comments on an earlier draft of this article.

Address correspondence to Alex Bierman, Department of Sociology, 2112 Art-Sociology Bldg., College Park, MD 20742. E-mail:


Much research has shown that experiences of discrimination are negatively related to mental health. In this study, a national probability survey of whites and African Americans at midlife is used to examine whether attendance at religious services and religious comfort seeking protect people from the effects of discrimination on mental health, and if the protective power of religion varies by race. Results show that reports of discrimination are related to greater negative affect and less positive affect, but only attendance at religious services moderates this relationship, and then only for African Americans' negative affect. The historical involvement of African-American religious bodies in combating discrimination may help to explain the specificity of these moderating effects.