The buffering effects of ethnic density on experienced racism and health

Health Place. 2009 Sep;15(3):670-8. doi: 10.1016/j.healthplace.2008.10.008. Epub 2008 Nov 18.


Studies in the United Kingdom (UK) show a consistent inequality between the health of ethnic minorities and that of white people. This is exacerbated by the over-representation of ethnic minorities in deprived areas, which have been associated with poorer infant and child health, chronic disease, and high mortality rates. Ethnic density, defined as the proportion of ethnic minority residents in an area, is generally thought of in relation to the negative impacts of area effects on health. However, it can be considered in terms of social networks and supportive communities, possibly mitigating the detrimental impact of racism on the health of ethnic minority people. This study investigated the ethnic density effect and hypothesised that ethnic minority people who live in areas of high ethnic density would report decreased experienced racism and better health outcomes compared to their counterparts living in areas of low ethnic density. Multiple logistic regressions were conducted using data from the Fourth National Survey of Ethnic Minorities and the 1991 UK Census. Results showed a negative association between ethnic density and psychotic symptomatology, but no evidence of an association between ethnic density and general self-rated health. Findings confirm that the experience of racism is lower in places of higher ethnic density and indicate a tendency for a weaker association between racism and health as ethnic density increases.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Ethnicity*
  • Female
  • Health Status Disparities*
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Population Density*
  • Prejudice*
  • Young Adult