Explaining levels of wellbeing in BME populations in England

A report by Jacqui Stevenson: formerly of the African Health Policy Network, and by Mala Rao: Institute of Health and Human Development, University of East London exploring wellbeing in BME populations.

Self-reported wellbeing, i.e., feeling good and functioning well, varies between different ethnic groups in the UK. Even controlling for the social and economic factors known to influence wellbeing, there appears to be a residual, non-random difference – with people from Black and minority ethnic (BME) communities reporting lower levels of wellbeing than their White counterparts. This discrepancy in wellbeing, which persists across the social gradient, is recognised, but has not previously been researched in detail. This report describes the findings of a research project conducted to investigate the issue of ethnic disparities in wellbeing and possible drivers for this. The project aimed to carry out a brief review of the existing data and literature on ethnic disparities in wellbeing and to gather the observations and views of key opinion leaders through a call for evidence, interviews and a roundtable meeting.
The findings of our review are described in this report. It summarises the determinants of wellbeing in BME populations and considers the main challenges and issues relevant to addressing disparities in wellbeing. Key questions, which were discussed in interviews and at the roundtable meeting, are used to frame the contents of the report. These are:

  • How does wellbeing differ in BME populations, and what are the implications of this?
  • What explains the persistence of lower levels of wellbeing across the social gradient in BME communities and what are the implications of this?
  • What factors beyond the social gradient influence wellbeing in ethnic groups?
  • Are there differences in wellbeing between distinct BME communities, and/or between 1st, 2nd and 3rd generation individuals?
  • What are the differences in cultural interpretations of the questions and concepts of wellbeing, and what impact do these have on reported wellbeing?
  • How does the language of wellbeing resonate with cultural reality and language, especially in terms of population survey language?

We also present a case study considering the wellbeing of BME staff working in the NHS – as the organisation in England with an exclusive focus on population health and wellbeing, and a large employer with a highly diverse workforce, this is included to illuminate the themes raised in the evidence review and provide a detailed contextual example of wellbeing in
practice.

The report presents the main drivers of differential wellbeing in BME populations, and concludes with both recommendations for policy and practice and for further research.

Click here to read the full report.

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