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Depression underdiagnosed in Māori, Pacific and Asian Kiwis

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There are ethnic inequalities evident in the diagnosis of mental illnesses like depression and anxiety in New Zealand, according to a new study in the New Zealand Medical Journal. While Pākehā reported the highest rate of diagnosis by a doctor, Māori, Pacific and Asian New Zealanders were more at risk of such illnesses based on a survey of psychological distress, and are likely to be under-diagnosed. The authors say this could be because of access to health professionals and different attitudes about what services they provide.

Journal/conference: New Zealand Medical Journal

Organisation/s: University of Auckland

Media Release

From: New Zealand Medical Association

Ethnic inequality in diagnosis with depression and anxiety disorders

Abstract:


AIMS: This study explored ethnic disparities in self-reported diagnosis of depression or an anxiety disorder by a doctor, relative to scores on the screening measure for these same forms of mental illness in a probability sample of New Zealand adults.

METHODS: 15,822 participants responded to the 2014/15 New Zealand Attitudes and Values Study (NZAVS longitudinal panel. Participants completed the Kessler-6 scale (a screening measure of non-specific psychological distress over the last month) and reported whether a doctor had diagnosed them with depression or an anxiety disorder any time in the last five years.

RESULTS: Maori, Pacific and Asian New Zealanders were more likely to score in the ‘at risk’ range of the Kessler-6 scale, indicating an increased likelihood of depression or anxiety, relative to European New Zealanders. However, European New Zealanders reported the highest rate of actual diagnosis with depression or anxiety in the previous five-year period.

CONCLUSION: There is an ethnic inequality in diagnosis received in the last five years relative to population level screening risk for depression and anxiety disorders over the last month. Maori, Pacific and Asian New Zealanders are more likely to be under-diagnosed with depression and anxiety disorders relative to European New Zealanders. This inequality may reflect ethnic group differences in access to, expectations from and style of communication with, medical professionals.

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