Race and the Association Between Police Stops and Depression Among Young Adults: A Research Note

Valerio Baćak, Kathryn Nowotny

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Police stops are stressful experiences that may be harmful for health. The present study examines the association between police stops and symptoms of depression in the National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent to Adult Health. The study sample included non-Hispanic Black (n = 2,118) and White (n = 5,629) adults aged 18–26 years surveyed in 1996 and 2001/2002. Both Black and White young adults who have been stopped by police had more symptoms of depression compared to their never stopped counterparts. Among Blacks, the association was attenuated but persisted after controlling for criminal behavior and justice contact. In contrast, among Whites, the association between police stops and depression was smaller in magnitude, and it was explained by self-reported criminal behavior. Given the frequency and the number of people in contact with police, we point to the need to sensitize police departments to potential mental health consequences of proactive policing, and the decreased willingness of the public to seek police help as a result of previous distressing encounters.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalRace and Justice
StateAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2018



  • depression
  • police stops
  • race
  • young adults

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Law

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