Minorities less likely to get mental illness diagnosed - study

  • 28/04/2017
Depression mental illness
Pākeha reported the highest rate of diagnosis by a doctor, but had the lowest risk profile (Getty)

Ethnic inequalities are evident in the diagnosis of mental illnesses like depression and anxiety in New Zealand, Auckland University researchers have concluded.

While Pākeha reported the highest rate of diagnosis by a doctor, Māori, Pacific and Asian people were found to be more at risk of such illnesses and likely to be under-diagnosed.

The study authors say this could be because of access to health professionals and different attitudes about what services they provide.

The research, published in the NZ Medical Journal, involved 15,800 participants completing a survey measuring non-specific psychological distress over the previous month.

They also reported whether a doctor had diagnosed them with depression or an anxiety disorder any time in the last five years.

The results showed Māori (7.5 percent), Pacific (8 percent) and Asian (8.5 percent) New Zealanders were more likely to have a high-risk score in the survey, than European New Zealanders (4.5 percent).

However, European New Zealanders (14.5 percent) reported the highest rate of actual diagnosis with depression or anxiety in the previous five-year period.

Next were Māori (12.6 percent) followed by Pacific (10.5 percent) and Asian (7.7 percent).

The authors said under-diagnosis among Asians was likely to be associated to their low use of psychiatric health care, which in turn could be linked to language and cultural barriers.

Among Pacific people, costs, transport and language were likely to be among factors.