New Article: “Weathering” Widens the Gap in Racial Health Disparities

Posted by Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity on April 25, 2023

In this Spotlight Exclusive, we speak with University of Michigan public health professor Arline Geronimus about her new book, Weathering: The Extraordinary Stress of Ordinary Life in an Unjust Society. Geronimus argues that marginalized people suffer nearly constant stress from living with poverty and discrimination, which damages their bodies at the cellular level, a process she calls “weathering.”  Geronimus began her research on the topic forty years ago when many people were skeptical about her theory, but she says research now shows “that there are adverse physiological impacts of everyday life on members of communities that have borne the brunt of racial, ethnic, religious and class discrimination or cultural oppression and stigma.” She says that unlike common, everyday stress that can lead to protection in small doses, “weathering stressors are byproducts of experiencing chronic material hardship, uncertain survival, objective environmental risk,” where there is no end in sight. To counteract the effects of weathering, Geronimus argues programs like Medicaid can be expanded to provide better access to high-quality healthcare to those who need it most.

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