Barrier or stressor? The role of discrimination experiences in health service use

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Discrimination is a well-established stressor that is substantially associated with poor health and a known contributor to health inequalities. However, the role of discrimination in health service use is less explored. This study will take an intersectional approach to investigate differences in health service use and examine the role of discrimination experiences.

Data on health service use were assessed in a diverse inner London sample of 1052 participants in the South East London Community Health (SELCoH) Study. Latent class analysis (LCA) was used to define classes of intersectional social status using multiple indicators of socioeconomic status (SES), ethnicity and migration status. Adjusted associations between intersectional social status and discrimination experiences with health service use indicators are presented.

Using latent class analysis allowed us to identify an intersectional social status characterized by multiple disadvantage that was associated with decreased secondary physical health service use and a class characterized by both privilege and disadvantage that was associated with increased health service use for mental disorder after controlling for age, gender and health status. Anticipated discrimination was also associated with increased service use for mental disorder in adjusted models. There was no evidence to suggest that discrimination experiences were acting as a barrier to health service use.

This study highlights the complex ways in which discrimination experiences may increase the need for health services whilst also highlighting differences in health service use at the intersection of ethnicity, migration status and SES. Findings from this study illustrate the importance of measuring multiple levels of discrimination and taking an intersectional approach for health service use research.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBMC Public Health
Issue number1
Early online date7 Dec 2018
Publication statusPublished - 7 Dec 2018


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