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When belongingness backfires: experienced discrimination predicts increased cardiometabolic risk among college students high in social belonging


Research implicates experiences of discrimination in exacerbating cardiometabolic disease (CMD) risk. Belongingness has been suggested as a buffer against the adverse effects of discrimination. However, when discrimination occurs in an environment to which one feels they belong, then the potential benefits of belongingness may dissipate or even exacerbate the effects of discrimination. In the present study, we examined these competing hypotheses on how campus belonging might moderate the relationship between discrimination experienced on campus and CMD risk. College students (n = 160, 60.9% Latino/a/x) reported the frequency of on-campus discrimination and campus belongingness, and then completed items assessing risk for CMD. More frequent discrimination related to higher comparative CMD risk among those who reported high campus belongingness, even after adjusting for relevant covariates. These findings highlight the complicated nature of belongingness in the context of physical health. Future research is needed to better understand the role of environment when considering morbidity among college students.

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