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Effects of Gender Discrimination and Reported Stress on Drug Use among Racially/Ethnically Diverse Women in Northern California



Gender discrimination has been associated with worse health outcomes for U.S. women. Using the stress and coping process framework, we examined whether lifetime gender discrimination was associated with maladaptive coping behaviors: lifetime and recent hard drug use. We also considered if reported stress from gender discrimination mediated this relationship and if this process differed across racial/ethnic groups.


We used data from a racially/ethnically diverse convenience sample of 754 women attending family planning clinics in Northern California (11% African American,17% Latina, 10% Asian and 62% Caucasian). To test our hypotheses, we conducted logistic regression models, controlling for sociodemographic characteristics.

Main Findings

Gender discrimination was positively associated with both lifetime and recent hard drug use. We did not find support for the mediation hypothesis, as stress was not significantly associated with either lifetime or recent hard drug use. There was evidence of some race moderation for the Latina sample. Among these respondents, gender discrimination was associated with higher odds of lifetime drug use, while stress was associated with lower odds.


These results suggest that experiences of gender discrimination may still activate negative coping strategies involving drug use, regardless of the stress they cause. For Latina respondents, more research is needed to better understand the stress and coping process related to gender discrimination.

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