Whether it is not getting a job we wanted or being crushed by a guy we liked, rejection isn’t nice for anyone. Now scientists are saying being denied can have long-term negative effects, influencing both our physical and mental health.
New research suggests that when rejection comes in the form of discrimination, people who are on the receiving end of it, experience anger, increased blood flow, greater vigilance, and engage in more risk-taking behaviour.
To explain why rejection really gets under our skin, researchers from the University of California recruited 91 participants to partake in an online chat. The chat created a situation in which the participant was “rejected” by two partners - one from their own race, the other from another ethnic group.
The subjects also provided a saliva sample, took a memory test and had their cardiovascular activity monitored.
Researchers found that those who were rejected by partners of a different race showed increased cardiac output, lower vascular resistance, and lower cortisol reactivity than those rejected by people of the same race.
They also demonstrated more anger and engaged in riskier behaviour due to their greater sensitivity to rewards.
Experiencing racial discrimination also increased a person’s vigilance, which researchers say is linked to anxiety and a host of clinical conditions.
What’s more, those rejected by their own ethnic group experienced a different pattern of physiological and cognitive responses than those rejected by another race.
Participants who were rejected by their "own" demonstrated less efficient cardiac output, increased vascular resistance and impaired memory – all linked risk factors of Alzheimer’s disease.
All of this proves that being on the receiving end of discrimination is painful and harmful to your health regardless of your racial identity.
"Together, these findings suggest that while social rejection creates strong negative emotions that are manifested in changes in the brain and body, the race of the person who rejects you alters the responses to social rejection," says Wendy Berry Mendes of the University of California, San Francisco.
Researchers hope this study will help healthcare workers understand the kinds of behaviour potentiated following an experience of discrimination. Related content:
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