Prevalence of workplace discrimination and mistreatment in a national sample of older U.S. workers: The REGARDS cohort study

D. Fekedulegn*, Toni Alterman, Luenda E. Charles, Kiarri N. Kershaw, Monika M. Safford, Virginia J. Howard, Leslie A. MacDonald

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Although workplace discrimination and mistreatment (WDM) has recently drawn widespread media attention, our understanding of the prevalence of these phenomena remains limited. In the current study, we generated national prevalence estimates of WDM from a community-based cohort of employed black and white men and women aged ≥48 years. Measures of WDM in the current job were obtained by computer-assisted telephone interview (2011–2013) involving dichotomous responses (yes or no) to five questions and deriving a composite measure of discrimination (yes to at least one). Prevalence estimates and age- and region-adjusted prevalence ratios were derived with use of SUDAAN software to account for the complex sample design. Analyses were stratified by race and sex subgroups. This sample represents over 40 million U.S. workers aged ≥48 years. The prevalence of workplace discrimination ranged from a high of 25% for black women to a low of 11% for white men. Blacks reported a 60% higher rate of discrimination compared to whites; women reported a 53% higher prevalence of discrimination, compared with men. The prevalence of workplace mistreatment ranged from 13% for black women to 8% for white men. Women reported a 52% higher prevalence of mistreatment compared to men, while differences by race were not significant. Mistreatment was 4–8 times more prevalent among those reporting discrimination than among those reporting none. Subgroup differences in mistreatment were confined to the wage-employed. Findings suggest that middle age and older wage-employed blacks and women experience the highest prevalence of WDM; moreover, discrimination is strongly associated with mistreatment. This study contributes to our understanding of at-risk segments of the U.S. labor market and the need for targeted interventions to reduce WDM.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number100444
JournalSSM - Population Health
StatePublished - Aug 2019


  • Ageism
  • Harassment
  • Mistreatment
  • Racism
  • Sexism
  • Workplace discrimination

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Health Policy
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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