Introduction: Ethnic minority patients on dialysis are reported to have better survival rates relative to Caucasians. The reasons for this finding are not fully understood and European studies are scarce. This study examined whether ethnic differences in survival could be explained by patient characteristics, including psychosocial factors.
Methods: We analysed data of the Netherlands Cooperative Study on the Adequacy of Dialysis study, an observational prospective cohort study of patients who started dialysis between 1997 and 2007 in the Netherlands. Ethnicity was classified as Caucasian, Black or Asian, assessed by local nurses. Data collected at the start of dialysis treatment included demographic, clinical and psychosocial characteristics. Psychosocial characteristics included data on health-related quality of life (HRQoL), mental health status and general health perception. Cox proportional hazards analysis was used to explore ethnic survival differences.
Results: One thousand seven hundred and ninety-one patients were Caucasian, 45 Black and 108 Asian. The ethnic groups differed significantly in age, residual glomerular filtration rate, diabetes mellitus, erythropoietin use, plasma calcium, parathormone and creatinine, marital status and general health perception. No ethnic differences were found in HRQoL and mental health status. Crude hazard ratios (HRs) for mortality for Caucasians compared to Blacks and Asians were 3.1 [95% confidence interval (CI) 1.6-5.9] and 1.1 (95% CI 0.9-1.5), respectively. After adjustment for a range of potential explanatory variables, including psychosocial factors, the HRs were 2.5 (95% CI 1.2-4.9) compared with Blacks and 1.2 (95% CI 0.9-1.6) compared with Asians.
Conclusions: Although patient numbers were rather small, this study demonstrates, with 95% confidence, better survival for Black compared to Caucasian dialysis patients and equal survival for Asian compared to Caucasian dialysis patients in the Netherlands. This could not be explained by patient characteristics, including psychosocial factors.