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These men grasped an insight that modern researchers and policy makers often fail to make explicit: Discrimination, especially when chronic, harms the body and the mind. How we treat one another, and how our institutions treat us, affects how long and how well we live.

We tend to think of discrimination as a moral or legal issue, and perhaps, in the case of immigration, an economic one. But it’s also a medical issue with important public health consequences. A growing body of evidence suggests that racial and sexual discrimination is toxic to the cells, organs and minds of those who experience it.

Research suggests that discrimination is internalized over a lifetime, and linked to a variety of poor health markers and outcomes: more inflammation and worse sleep; smaller babies and higher infant death rates; a greater risk of cancer, depression and substance use. The cumulative burden of discrimination is linked to higher rates of hypertension and more severe narrowing of important arteries in the heart and neck. Even the telomeres at the end of our chromosomes, which act as a sort of timer for aging cells, can shorten.

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NYTimes The Upshot

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