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Study Links Racism in Healthcare Setting to Poor Mental Health

First Posted: Jun 14, 2014 06:59 AM EDT

The Aboriginal Australians experiencing racism in health settings has a strong negative influence on mental health, a new study reveals.

Researchers at the University of Melbourne  did a survey that examined racism experienced by the Aboriginal Australians in health care settings and also in other areas including the workplace, education and sports and the impact it had on their mental health.

The survey included 755 participants in which 97 percent had experienced at least one racist incident in any setting in the previous 12 months. And one-third of them reported experiencing racism in hospitals and healthcare.

"The most frequent experience of racism in this setting included being a target of racist names, jokes or teasing, or hearing comments that relied on stereotypes of Aboriginal Australians. Ten per cent of respondents indicated that they had been told that they 'didn't belong in Australia', that they should 'go home' or 'get out'. People who experienced racism in health settings were more likely to experience very high psychological distress, compared with respondents who reported no experiences of racism," study lead associate professor Margaret Kelaher said.

Due to the racism existing in health settings, the patients are discourages to seek access to health services and other resources that protect as well enhance health.

This study highlights a link between racist incidents and poor mental health among indigenous people and also offers suggestion on how to deal with racism in the future.

"VicHealth has undertaken considerable research over the past decade which has built the case for preventing, and responding to, race-based discrimination. This report provides evidence that racism in health care, like many other parts of the community, is detrimental to health and reveals an urgent need to address this issue in Victoria," VicHealth CEO Jerril Rechter said.

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