But for high-achieving black men, more success actually increases the likelihood they will experience symptoms of depression and anxiety.
That’s the conclusion of Shervin Assari and T.J. Curry, researchers who have spent decades studying depression in, and discrimination against, black men in the United States.
In an article in The Conversation, they discuss the results of six studies that show an inverse effect between black men’s achievement and adverse mental health outcomes.
One long-term study followed 681 black youths over 18 years. For black male participants, an increase in perceived racial discrimination between ages 20 and 23 was correlated with increased anxiety and depression symptoms as they grew older.
Another, which compared black men with black women, white men and white women over the course of 25 years, found that men with higher educational credentials also experienced more depressive symptoms.
“According to our studies, regardless of their economic success and personal ambitions, black males are still perceived as more threatening and dangerous than their female counterparts,” Assari and Curry write. “Race alone may not be the issue here. Instead, it is an issue of race and gender, that may stem from hopelessness, inequality and blocked opportunities.”
Successful black men are not the only ones at risk, they said. But they challenge views that mere attainment can improve mental health outcomes for black men, whose success is attained in a world rife with personal and systemic biases and discrimination.