Indigenous Australians who have experienced racism develop poor health, a study has found.
Australian National University researchers analysed data from more than 8,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults.
They found victims of discrimination had poor health and wellbeing regardless of their age, where they live and their gender.
Racism was linked to pain, poor life satisfaction, psychological distress, anxiety, depression, heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.
“We found these negative outcomes were increasingly common as the extent of discrimination increased,” social epidemiologist Katherine Thurber said on Friday.
“Discrimination experiences were pervasive, with almost six in 10 participants in the study reporting having experienced discrimination in their everyday life.”
Four out of 10 said they were treated with less respect than other people, and the same proportion reported that “people act like I am not smart”, according to the findings.
“These results highlight the breadth and extent of just how bad racism is for our mob’s wellbeing,” social epidemiologist Raymond Lovett said.
“Across the board, we found consistent links between racism and poor mental health, physical health and cultural wellbeing.
The study also found around one in six participants reported they were unfairly bothered by police.
“Any experience of unfair police treatment can have extreme consequences for life opportunities,” social epidemiologist Roxanne Jones said.
Discrimination was more commonly reported by younger participants, females and those living in remote versus urban or regional areas.
“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have been saying for a very long time that racism is bad for health,” Prof Lovett said.
“Now we have robust data to back up those experiences.”
Dr Thurber said the study was the first time researchers had national evidence specific to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the link between discrimination and such a broad range of outcomes.
“The pervasiveness of discrimination, coupled with its strong and far-ranging links to wellbeing means that there is vast potential to improve health by eliminating discrimination,” she said.
Researchers asked about participants’ experiences of discrimination in everyday life and in most cases, the respondents attributed it to being Indigenous.