Perceived ethnic discrimination, suicidal ideation and mastery in a multi-ethnic cohort: the HELIUS study

BJPsych Open. 2023 Jan 20;9(1):e21. doi: 10.1192/bjo.2022.640.


Background: The association between perceived ethnic discrimination (PED) and mental health conditions is well studied. However, less is known about the association between PED and suicidal ideation, or the role of positive psychosocial factors in this association.

Aims: To examine the association between PED and suicidal ideation among ethnic minority groups in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, and investigate whether ethnicity and mastery (people's extent of feeling in control of their lives and environment) moderate this association.

Method: Cross-sectional data from the multi-ethnic HELIUS study were analysed (n = 17 053) for participants of South-Asian Surinamese, African Surinamese, Ghanaian, Turkish and Moroccan origin. PED was measured using the Everyday Discrimination Scale, suicidal ideation using item 9 of the Patient Health Questionnaire-9 and mastery using the Pearlin-Schooler Mastery Scale.

Results: Logistic regression analyses demonstrated a small positive association between PED and suicidal ideation (OR = 1.068, 95% CI 1.059-1.077), which did not differ among ethnic minority groups. Mastery did not moderate the association between PED and suicidal ideation among the ethnic minority groups.

Conclusions: Our findings support the hypothesis that PED is associated with suicidal ideation and this association does not significantly vary between ethnic minority groups. Although higher levels of mastery were associated with lower suicidal ideation, mastery did not moderate the relationship between PED and suicidal ideation. Besides targeting ethnic discrimination as a societal problem, future longitudinal research is needed to investigate whether interventions aimed at improving mastery could reduce suicidal ideation in ethnic minority groups.

Keywords: HELIUS study; ethnicity; mastery; perceived ethnic discrimination; suicidal ideation.