The subject of ethnicity is complex and sensitive and calls for significant attention to achieve equality for all regarding health and wellbeing experiences of people. According to Barr (2014) the health and wellbeing experiences of ethnic minority group members, in general, are poorer as compared to the overall health of the population. The ethnicity impact on the distribution of health and wellbeing experiences of people in the society has become an issue of global debate among scholars since early 1970s. On average, people from backgrounds that can be described as minority exhibit more instances of bad health compared to the overall population. Whereas there are many different trials of explaining the difference, sociology rejects genetic and biological explanations because of lack of evidence as well as the very assumptions' limitations. On the contrary, sociology argues that economic and social inequalities are to blame for the disparity (Ahmad and Bradby, 2009). This essay discusses the influence of ethnicity on the health and wellbeing experiences of people from a minority ethnic background and the example of Britain will be used.
Ethnicity Versus Race
Before looking into the influence of ethnicity on health and wellbeing experiences of people from minority backgrounds, it is prudent to differentiate between ethnicity and race. More often than not, the terms are employed as if they mean the same, but they are different. In the past, the race was applied in arguing that there exist biological variations among global populations, but the position lacks evidence merit for justifying the division of populations on the biological basis. Brondolo et al. (2009, p 1) opine that population groups in the world can have genetic differences but the differences mainly affect skin, eye and color, and have little capacity to influence disease susceptibility. Different groups of populations have more genetic and biological similarities compared to differences. The variations which exist between people of different population groups do not even match those found within one population group. The race is discredited in explaining health and well-being disparities because it reduces the variations to mere biological factors and thus marginalizing social forces which are profoundly the main disparity triggers. While focusing on race, one's attention is directed to individuals instead of the glaring unmatched relationships which lead to poor health and lack of well-being of ethnic minorities (Brondolo et al., 2009, p 1).
Definition of Ethnicity
In broad terms, ethnicity can be defined as the practice of identifying population groups by historical, cultural, and social differences. Ethnic groups have the characteristic of organized cultural boundaries which include but not limited to religion, language, as well as country of one's origin. The concept of ethnicity is subjective, encompassing both self-categorisation and identification. Individuals, for example, can view themselves as members of a given group, using their view of their ethnicity under the influence of the way they think and act, and therefore ethnicity may be regarded as its own members' construction (Ingleby, 2012, p 331). Conversely, however, individuals may be classified as members of a given ethnic group by other people.
Health researchers find it challenging to establish an arbitrary nature regarding how an ethnic group is to be defined because of the different understanding both historically and culturally. In Britain, for instance, statistics are typically sourced from the government data. Most recent census examples include black and the white Caribbean, white British and black British, Irish and Gypsy traveler, Pakistani and Indian classifications among others. The statistics indicate that definition of ethnicity is by national and cultural differences and racial understandings which results in a complicated picture of the ethnic construction of Britain (Ingleby, 2012, p 331). However, researchers do not have another choice other than relying on these classifications.
Ethnicity, Health and Wellbeing Complexity
Attempts at understanding the social aspect of ethnicity are challenging because of the limited large-scale data sets of a survey that reflect the health and wellbeing social distribution among different ethnic groups. There exists information from numerous academic and independent sources, however, that make it possible to establish a picture that is broad. Relying on the same categorization as in the case of the census, minority ethnic groups in Britain, in general, have a poor health relative to the overall population health (LaVeist and Isaac, 2012, p 32).
There also exist geographical health disparities among ethnic groups that fall under the minority category. London exhibits the most significant inequalities where the ethnic minorities are on the disadvantaged side. In London, differences are more profound compared to the other parts of Britain. In London, for instance, the likelihood of Bangladeshi women to report an illness that is long-term is 30% whereas the possibility for Britain overall population is just 15%. Studies on mental health indicate that the Afro-Caribbean individuals show high depression levels and schizophrenic rates compared to the total population. In general, black and minority ethnic groups form the majority in the inpatient settings of mental health (LaVeist and Isaac, 2012, p 32).
According to conventional wisdom, minority ethnic groups exhibit high levels of bad health and the lack of wellbeing, but a few have health and wellbeing experience that is better compared to that of the overall population. In the time ranging from 1991 to 2011, people of Chinese origin showed better health rates in comparison with white people of Britain, while black and white African women showed relatively low levels of illnesses that are long-term regarding the general British population. Even though Arab women and men have relatively poor health regarding the overall London population, their health is good relative to that of whole Britain population. People of the Asian origin have a low likelihood of suffering from anxiety and depression in comparison to the white people in the British population, whereas Afro-Caribbean people have a low probability of suffering from anxiety (LaVeist and Isaac, 2012, p 32).
Economic and Social Inequalities
Some efforts in explaining health and wellbeing experiences inequalities have aimed at reducing the disparities to just cultural factors. The efforts have tried to suggest that the poor health and the lack of wellbeing emanate from the cultural values and norms of people of the minority groups, attributing every other disadvantage to their attitudes and practices. The type of approach, however, can be described as a blaming approach since it regards the culture as the fault and disregarding economic and social factors (Graham, 2009).
Socioeconomic status impacts on health and wellbeing. With the high number of ethnic minority people being subjected to widespread social deprivation, unemployment and poverty relative to the majority of the population, socioeconomic inequality is emerging as the health and wellbeing disparity principal cause that the ethnic minorities witness. The health and well-being of all the members of ethnic minority groups have a close relationship with each groups' socioeconomic status. Once the socioeconomic status is lost, poor health and lack of wellbeing set in (Graham, 2009).
Whereas the socioeconomic status significantly impacts on the health and the well-being of the ethnic minorities in comparison to the overall population, even after adjusting the factors that account for the socioeconomic status, the disparities will remain. When you put on a scale of comparison the health status and the well-being of people of both groups within a similar socioeconomic, people from the ethnic groups of minority still exhibit relatively poor health. There exists another ethnicity component which increases the vulnerability of the ethnic minority individuals to poor health: it is not easy accounting for the 'other' factor, and there are some causes for that including racism and racial prejudice (Graham, 2009).
The Influence of Racism
The racial prejudice level in Britain is hard to quantify, mainly because of the unwillingness of people to concede to the fact that it exists. The 2013 survey of social attitudes in Britain, however, indicated that a third of the population of Britain confessed to being racially prejudiced. Racial prejudice direct experience or awareness of the existence of such types of attitudes can have consequences that are significantly negative for the health of individuals, especially their state of mental health. A racial prejudice experience increases depression and anxiety disorders risk, as already has been the case among Irish, Pakistani, Indian and Caribbean minorities (Graham, 2009).
Similarly, attitudes of racial prejudice may be embedded in the way the society operates, leading to social institutions and structures which can work in a manner that is discriminatory and have an influence on the attitudes and actions of the people within them. Structural and institutional discrimination may be witnessed in health as well as other health services of the government health sector. It has been suggested that institutional practices and attitudes of the mental health care and the system of the criminal justice take part of the blame for the identified ethnic disparities (Graham, 2009).
The explanation for the over-represented black people, mostly young men, in the mental health facilities is hotly debated, but the main reason is the way mental health care, as well as the respective institutions, declare them black mental health victims as having the mental problems. The chances of one being given the tag of 'mentally ill' usually increase proportionally to the existing cultural gap between the one labeled and those doing the labeling (Graham, 2009).
Afro-Caribbean men, particularly young ones, are the most likely to find themselves in mental health facilities compared to any other group, primarily through the system of criminal justice which find them to be a potential social threat. Consequently, the system of criminal justice is highly likely to view their behavior negatively, as the behavior will very likely be 'seen' by the criminal institutions which work in coordination with the respective health systems. The chances of an individual being labeled as mentally ill are high. In this regard, the mental health system may be perceived as social control institutions, based on a widespread view of the young men of Afro-Caribbean background exhibiting a type of behavior interpreted to imply social threats. The likelihood of the members of the group being admitted to the institutions of mental health compulsorily and placed in wards that are locked is (Ahmad and Bradby, 2009).
Out of all social health determinants, ethnicity analysis is very likely the most complicated. Although academics have conducted essential and quite insightful research, the absence of an official database on a large-scale is a severe obstacle in the efforts to understand the influences that ethnicity has on health and well-being of the ethnic minority. Whereas there exists a comprehensive consensual perspective agreeing that, on average, the ethnic minorities experience lack behind in the health and wellbeing dimension, the acceptance of the fact that some exhibit better health and wellbeing compared to the majority of the population, together with other existing attempts to explaining the mystery of poor h...
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