Background: Inequalities in health between different ethnic groups in New Zealand are most pronounced between Māori and Europeans. Our aim was to assess the effect of self-reported racial discrimination and deprivation on health inequalities in these two ethnic groups.
Methods: We used data from the 2002/03 New Zealand Health Survey to assess prevalence of experiences of self-reported racial discrimination in Māori (n=4108) and Europeans (n=6269) by analysing the responses to five questions about: verbal attacks, physical attacks, and unfair treatment by a health professional, at work, or when buying or renting housing. We did logistic regression analyses to assess the effect of adjustment for experience of racial discrimination and deprivation on ethnic inequalities for various health outcomes.
Findings: Māori were more likely to report experiences of self-reported racial discrimination in all instances assessed, and were almost ten times more likely to experience discrimination in three or more settings than were Europeans (4.5% [95% CI 3.2-5.8] vs 0.5% [0.3-0.7]). After adjustment for discrimination and deprivation, odds ratios (95% CI) comparing Māori and European ethnic groups were reduced from 1.67 (1.35-2.08) to 1.18 (0.92-1.50) for poor or fair self-rated health, 1.70 (1.42-2.02) to 1.21 (1.00-1.47) for low physical functioning, 1.30 (1.11-1.54) to 1.02 (0.85-1.22) for low mental health, and 1.46 (1.12-1.91) to 1.11 (0.82-1.51) for cardiovascular disease.
Interpretation: Racism, both interpersonal and institutional, contributes to Māori health losses and leads to inequalities in health between Māori and Europeans in New Zealand. Interventions and policies to improve Māori health and address these inequalities should take into account the health effects of racism.