“Weathering” And The Effects Of Racism On Public Health

Devin Thompson

The emotional and psychological effects of discrimination are familiar to anyone who’s ever been treated differently because of who they are. The damage that stress can do to the human brain has been widely understood for decades. Research on how living in poverty has similar effects on the human brain to pulling an all-nighter every night has received widespread coverage over the past decade.

Weathering is a concept in public health research that compares the human body to a structure exposed to harsh environmental conditions over time. Just as a building may deteriorate under constant exposure to severe weather, marginalized people’s bodies are harmed by the corrosive effects of systemic oppression from factors like discrimination, poverty or ongoing adversity. The term “weathering” is used as shorthand for one hypothesis of why individuals facing persistent stressors typically experience more frequent or severe health issues.