England’s most extensive ever study of ethnic minority health in the over-55s ever has revealed huge inequalities across most groups, compared with white British people.
The University of Manchester study showed people from some ethnic minority groups – particularly those belonging to Asian groups – were more likely to report poor experiences at their GP surgery.
That suggests, say the authors, unfairness within NHS services may be exacerbating health inequalities for some ethnic minority groups.
It found that the average health of 60 year olds belonging to Gypsy or Irish Traveller, Bangladeshi, Pakistani, and Arab groups was similar to that of a typical 80 year old.
People from almost all ethnic groups studied were much more likely to report insufficient support from local services to manage their health conditions and to say they lacked self-confidence in managing their health.
The study, published in Lancet Public Health, used the England-wide GP Patient Survey to analyse responses from almost 1.4 million adults aged over 55 surveyed between 2015 and 2017.
The sample included over 150,000 people who self-identified as belonging to an ethnic minority group – the largest ever sample.
The GP Patient Survey contains information on day-to-day difficulties and factors that can determine overall health.
Other key findings included:
- Inequalities tended to be wider for older women
- Older people from ethnic minority groups were more likely to report suffering from some common long-term conditions like diabetes and from having 2 or more conditions
- Older Bangladeshi women were around 3 times more likely to report poor experiences than compared to older White British women
Lead author Dr Ruth Watkinson from The University of Manchester said: “We found that people from some ethnic minority groups – particularly Asian groups – were more likely to report poor experiences at their GP surgery.
“This suggests the NHS as an institution is failing people from some ethnic groups. Policy action is needed to transform healthcare and wider support services to make sure they meet the needs of all individuals in England’s multi-ethnic population fairly.
“But policy makers also need to address the structural racism that makes it harder for people belonging to ethnic minority groups to access socioeconomic opportunities because poverty is a major cause of poor health.
Co-author Dr Alex Turner, also from The University of Manchester added: “Researchers haven’t been able to research the health outcomes of people over 55 in ethnic minority groups, because they aren’t included in sufficient numbers in most datasets.
“And much official data doesn’t distinguish between groups, which can mask inequalities
“But this study allowed us analyse results for all 18 of the UK census ethnic groups separately, allowing us to see differences between them.
“However more research to better understand exactly what drives these health inequalities. There needs to be more data collection with much better inclusion of people from ethnic minority groups in longitudinal studies.”