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Ethnic differences in depression diagnosis

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 27/04/2017

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

While Pakeha reported the highest rate of diagnosis by a doctor, Maori, 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 Maori (7.5 per cent), Pacific (8 per cent) and Asian (8.5 per cent) New Zealanders were more likely to have a high-risk score in the survey, than European New Zealanders (4.5 per cent).

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

Next were Maori (12.6 per cent) followed by Pacific (10.5 per cent) and Asian (7.7 per cent).

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.

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