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Addressing Structural Racism in Psychiatry With Steps to Improve Psychophysiologic Research.
JAMA Psychiatry  (IF21.596),  Pub Date : 2022-01-01, DOI: 10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2021.2663
Julianne L Price,Marino A Bruce,Bryon Adinoff

Importance The American Medical Association has acknowledged the public health threat posed by racism in medicine. While clinicians in psychiatry have echoed the sentiment, the research community has largely been silent. Current understanding of the biological domains that underlie psychiatric disorders was historically established by studying White populations, often leaving widely used treatments ineffective for Asian, Black, Hispanic, Indigenous, and other racial and ethnic minority individuals. This article addresses how undersampling of racial and ethnic minority individuals has led to overgeneralized physiological findings, the implications for development of psychiatric treatments, and steps to improve service to racially diverse communities. Observations Three primary observations regarding differences associated with race and ethnicity have been addressed in the existing psychiatric research: misdiagnosis, medication nonadherence, and treatment efficacy and expression of adverse effects. While cultural factors have been discussed as potential factors associated with these differences, a lack of understanding of physiologic systems may be foundational to each of these issues. Recent evidence points to race differences in psychophysiological measures, likely attributed to factors including the lived experience of racism as opposed to inherent biological differences. This mounting evidence supports a reassessment of existing work to examine potential divergent patterns within racial and ethnic groups. The following strategies may improve understanding of the influence of racism on physiology, allowing clinicians to better address psychiatric symptoms and improve existing treatment approaches. Thus, psychiatric researchers need to (1) understand the historic and current terminology for race and ethnicity and use appropriate terms and categories as defined by sociologists, population health experts, and databases while respecting individuals' right to self-identify, (2) refine research questions, and (3) reexamine research data to determine whether patterns observed in largely White populations can extend to other groups. To appropriately implement these steps, researchers must accept the discomfort that accompanies growth, invite scientists from diverse backgrounds to participate, and use resources to increase diversity in recruitment of study participants. This will require a commitment from funding agencies to provide adequate support to recruit and investigate large, diverse samples. Conclusions and Relevance To create more suitable medical treatments and improve the quality of care received by those with psychiatric conditions, further discussion is needed surrounding the physiologic toll that racism has had on multiple generations of racial and ethnic minority groups and how that may alter responsivity to biobehavioral interventions. To better inform psychiatric research, the resources provided must be expanded, basic physiologic studies should be replicated with more diverse samples and adequate analyses, and psychiatry scientists must reconsider approaches to clinical research.