Keum Looks at Impact of Online Racism on Alcohol Use

A new study recently published in the American Journal of Orthopsychiatry was co-authored by Brian Keum, assistant professor of social welfare. It links online racism to unhealthy alcohol use as a stress-reduction coping strategy among racial minority adults. Keum was the principal investigator of the study, which examined alcohol use as a risky stress-reduction coping behavior associated with online racism, and whether there was any differentiation between men and women. “To our knowledge, this is the first study to examine the impact of online racism on alcohol use severity among racial minority adults,” said Keum, whose research focuses on reducing health and mental health disparities among marginalized individuals and communities. The report highlighted ways that online racism may be encountered, including personal encounters of racial cyber-aggression from others on the internet, vicarious witnessing of racial cyber-aggression among others and online exposure to racist incidents or racist realities in society. “These results suggest that online racism is likely a contemporary digital risk factor that may drive detrimental health behaviors such as alcohol use,” he said. In particular, women of color reported greater social media-related stress associated with online racism, which explained greater unhealthy alcohol use. This was not found for men. “This may be reflective of the greater stressfulness of the compounded nature of oppression that racial minority women may experience in the online space compared to racial minority men,” Keum said. Most previous studies focused on cyberbullying of children and teenagers, not the digital burden faced by racial minority adults.

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