Police shootings of unarmed black Americans have adverse effects on the mental health of other black Americans in the general population, according to a study published Thursday in The Lancet. The report was released just two days after a police officer shot and killed Antwon Rose, an unarmed black teen who was fleeing a traffic stop in Pittsburgh.
Exposure to one or more police killings within a three-month period was associated with a 0.35 day increase in poor mental health days, according to the report, which combined data on police shootings with individual-level data from a nationally representative self-report survey on health. Adverse mental health effects were not observed among white respondents and resulted only from police killings of unarmed black Americans (not unarmed white Americans or armed black Americans).
The researchers used self-reported race to identify black American respondents to the U.S. Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), a nationally representative telephone survey that collects health data from U.S. adults. Information collected from the 2013-2015 BRFSS was combined with available data with the timing of police killings as reported in the Mapping Police Violence database, which has tracked police killings in the United States since 2013.
A total of 38,993 of the 103,710 black American respondents were exposed to one or more police killings of unarmed black Americans in their state of residence in the months prior to the survey. Each additional police killing of an unarmed black American in the respondent’s state of residence in the months prior to interview was associated with a 0.14 day increase in the number of poor mental health days.
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