How Do Intersecting and Overlapping Social, Environmental, Political and Economic Factors Affect Vulnerable Black Women’s Substance Use?




Nydegger, Liesl A.
Claborn, Kasey R.

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University of Texas at Austin Population Research Center



Black women generally have higher rates of infections, diseases and mental health problems than other groups in the United States. Systemic racism, economic and educational discrimination, and family conflicts contribute to these health disparities. Given these intersecting and overlapping social, environmental, political and economic factors that negatively affect Black women’s lives, it is helpful to employ syndemic theory, which focuses on understanding the ways in which a person’s context affects their health outcomes, to better understand vulnerable Black women’s substance use experiences. Using in-depth interviews with vulnerable Black women, PRC faculty research associate Liesl Nydegger and her Dell Medical School colleague Kasey Claborn demonstrate that this subpopulation of Black women were at high risk for unhealthy substance use and dependence. They call for policymakers to expand housing opportunities, increase funding to address intimate partner violence, and to improve the mental health treatment and substance use recovery opportunities available to low-income Black women.

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