Reported ethnic discrimination is higher among indigenous and minority adult populations. There is a paucity of nationally representative prevalence studies of ethnic discrimination among adolescents. Experiencing ethnic discrimination has been associated with a range of adverse health outcomes. NZ has a diverse ethnic population. There are health inequalities among young people from Māori and Pacific ethnic groups.
9107 randomly selected secondary school students participated in a nationally representative cross-sectional health and wellbeing survey conducted in 2007. The prevalence of ethnic discrimination by health professionals, by police, and ethnicity-related bullying were analysed. Logistic regression was used to examine the associations between ethnic discrimination and six health/wellbeing outcomes: self-rated health status, depressive symptoms in the last 12 months, cigarette smoking, binge alcohol use, feeling safe in ones neighbourhood, and self-rated school achievement.
There were significant ethnic differences in the prevalences of ethnic discrimination. Students who experienced ethnic discrimination were less likely to report excellent/very good/good self-rated general health (OR 0.51; 95% CI 0.39, 0.65), feel safe in their neighbourhood (OR 0.48; 95% CI 0.40, 0.58), and more likely to report an episode of binge drinking in the previous 4 weeks (OR 1.77; 95% CI 1.45, 2.17). For all these outcomes the odds ratios for the group who were 'unsure' if they had experienced ethnic discrimination were similar to those of the 'yes' group.
Ethnicity stratified associations between ethnic discrimination and the depression, cigarette smoking, and self-rated school achievement are reported. Within each ethnic group participants reporting ethnic discrimination were more likely to have adverse outcomes for these three variables. For all three outcomes the direction and size of the association between experience of ethnic discrimination and the outcome were similar across all ethnic groups.
Ethnic discrimination is more commonly reported by Indigenous and minority group students. Both experiencing and being 'unsure' about experiencing ethnic discrimination are associated with a range of adverse health/wellbeing outcomes. Our findings highlight the progress yet to be made to ensure that rights to be free from ethnic discrimination are met for young people living in New Zealand.