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Journal of Applied Psychology

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Health and race, Racism, Mental health


Previous studies have found that workplace mistreatment positively relates to depression, a critical mental health disorder. However, it is unknown whether mistreatment affects all individuals’ depressive symptoms equally. Drawing from the hopelessness theory of depression and the stigma literature, we suggest that Blacks suffer from greater depression than Whites when they experience similar levels of workplace mistreatment because Blacks, as members of a racial minority group, are more likely to attribute workplace mistreatment to their race. This, in turn, causes them to make a pessimistic attribution (i.e., attributions that are internal, stable, and global) about themselves that, ultimately, leads to depression. We tested these predictions across two studies. In Study 1, we used a multiyear time-lagged design and multiple indicators of depression (i.e., self-reported clinical depression scale, device-traced sleep quantity, and self-reported sleep quality) and found that the positive relationship between workplace mistreatment and depression was stronger for Blacks than Whites, and that these patterns were consistent across the various indicators (although only results with the clinical depression scale and sleep quantity were statistically significant). In Study 2, we found that the influence of workplace mistreatment on depression is partly due to racial differences in how workplace mistreatment is attributed. We conclude by discussing the theoretical and practical implications of these findings and directions for future research.

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©American Psychological Association, 2023. This paper is not the copy of record and may not exactly replicate the authoritative document published in the APA journal. The final article is available at:


An earlier version of this article was presented at the 64th Annual Meeting of the Western Academy of Management, Reno, Nevada, March 2023.



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