Hate is a Public Health Issue

Hate is a Public Health Issue 

Hate is linked to poorer health outcomes, and is defined as a negative emotion that motivates and may lead to negative behaviors with severe consequences. Hate is used as a gateway to enable individuals, groups and systems to perpetuate violence through reinforcing systems of oppression (e.g., racism, cissexism, sexism, heterosexism, ableism, etc.).

Hate has extreme consequences for the health of our community.  Here are just a few examples: 

  • Mental Health: 
    • “Hate speech alone can cause a rise in clinical anxiety levels, thereby potentially disrupting immune systems and allowing growth of cancer and chronic inflammatory disease”1. 
  • Youth Violence: 
    • Not only is youth homicide a leading cause of death among 10 - 24 year olds, it underscores the disparity among victims, impacting disproportionately more African American, Hispanic and American Indian and Alaska Native individuals. School violence, including bullying, is on the rise. Emergency departments see hundreds of thousands of youth who sustained injuries from physical assaults each year. These figures don’t even begin to capture the additional emotional and physical toll this takes on youth, their families and communities.
  • HIV: 
    • Structural violence and stigma perpetuate myths and stereotypes about HIV that can cause fear and hatred  – and subsequently violence – toward those groups most affected. This stigma causes people to avoid talking about HIV, seeking testing when they need it, and also accessing treatment when diagnosed; this directly increases community viral load and contributes to new infections.  


Hatred can be thought of as an infectious disease that leads to the spread of violence and fear, it is contagious and the result of an exposure to hatred. Hate creates fear that permeates through all the environments in which it exists. 

On a positive note, we can work to create immunity to hatred. Rather than focus on downstream impacts, we can move upstream and prevent the causes. Some things that prevent hatred are:

  • Feeling a sense of community and safety
  • Acceptance and respect for others
  • Social connection and a sense of relationship to others 
  • Community trust
  • Opportunities to heal after painful experiences
  • Protective factors against Adverse Childhood Experiences
  • Open-mindedness and positive associations with communities different from one’s own


To embrace and foster a hate-free community, it takes all of us. Public agencies, businesses, communities, and individuals will all need to commit and work together. UC Davis, City and County Launched a Hate-Free Together Campaign late November. A communitywide framework to combat local hate incidents and prioritize the well-being and safety of all residents. To learn more about the 2023 campaign, visit the Hate Free Together Launch page

The campaign will invite the entire community to help condemn hate, create safety and cultivate change, and encourage an environment that promotes inclusiveness, celebrates diversity and rejects hate and bias in all forms.


What You Can Do

Adapted from Ten Ways to Fight Hate: A community response guide

  • Act
    • If you want to act but you’re not sure what to do, you are not alone. Reach out to friends, organizations and communities to see what is happening and where you might fit in; suggest action where your voice will be heard, sign a petition, volunteer your time at events with a cause. 
  • Speak up
    • Hate must be exposed; spread tolerance in social media, in your conversations, in letters to an editor. 
  • Join Forces 
    • Reach out to allies, gather ideas from everyone involved and encourage everyone to take action; the more capacity created, the bigger the impact. Start by calling on those that are likely to respond to a hate event, e.g., — 
  • Rally Leaders
    • Form relationships with leaders; demand a strong public statement and encourage leaders to name the problem. Push leaders when they fail to act. 
  • Support Victims
    • Even small acts can have a big impact, show victims you care. Victims of hate crimes can feel very alone; they have been attacked simply because of who they are. Speak and share with others, whether that be reporting an incident or speaking to the press; this can be a powerful motivator to others. 
  • Educate yourself and stay engaged
    • Learn the impact of hate. “Hate crimes and bias incidents don’t just victimize individuals; they torment communities. [and spread fear]. Reading the histories of other cultures and of different social justice movements — the civil rights movement, the Chicano movement, the fight for LGBT rights, for example — is a good start.”
  • Teach Acceptance
    • “The best cure for hate is a united community.” Honor history and celebrate anniversaries; create or contribute to online platforms that celebrate diversity and inclusion. Model inclusive behaviors for those around you


“Every act of hate should be met with an act of love and unity” 


Resource and Further Learning



1. Izzeldin Abuelaish & Neil Arya (2017) Hatred-a public health issue, Medicine, Conflict and Survival, 33:2, 125-130, DOI: 10.1080/13623699.2017.1326215

2. Sood AB, Berkowitz SJ. Prevention of Youth Violence: A Public Health Approach. Child Adolesc Psychiatr Clin N Am. 2016 Apr;25(2):243-56. doi: 10.1016/j.chc.2015.11.004. Epub 2016 Jan 11. PMID: 26980127.

3. Maroney T. HIV and hatred. Hazardous to your health. Health PAC Bull. 1993 Winter;23(4):14-20. PMID: 10133593.