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Friday, 19 April 2019 08:18 pm

Maori people much more likely to suffer from mental health issues

9.6% of Maori reported mental health issues

SOCIAL and economic inequality could be to blame for the significant difference of mental health issues being reported between Maori and Europeans.

A New Zealand Health Survey shows that the average rate for psychological distress across all New Zealanders is 6.1%.

However, when broken down by ethnic group, it showed that Maori were reporting a rate of 9.6% – just over a third more than the rate for Europeans.

Pacific Islanders also had a higher than average psychological distress rate, at 8.9%.

It’s not clear why there is a large difference in figures, however, some experts think it may be linked to social conditions facing Maori and disadvantaged communities.


Associate Professor of Dunedin School of Medicine, Joanne Baxter, believes it is difficult to say what the underlying causes of mental health issues are in general, regardless of ethnicity.

There is a whole range of contributing factors, but not a one size fits all theory. Psychological distress can include conditions such as anxiety and depression. Ms. Baxter says the more detailed topic of Maori mental health is a deeply complex issue.

“There’s a range of research, some comes from the historical impact of colonisation, some indicating that Maori people have increased exposure to inequality in social and economic realms, and some research identifies other factors.”

Kaiarahi Kaupapa Lucy Bush of Te Rau Matatini, a group combating issues for New Zealand’s indigenous people, agrees that the topic of Maori mental health is intricate.

She also believes the history of New Zealand is one of the many contributing factors.

“Colonisation is involved, people still hold onto a lot of that. We haven’t really let go and it spreads onto our young,” she says.

However, not all agree with the statistics and believe that mental health is an issue which can’t easily be verified.

Miri Ransfield, a team leader at Te Whare Rauta, a facility specialising in Maori mental health based in Porirua, disagrees with the figures.

She says it’s hard to put an accurate number on those suffering from mental illness.

“I don’t think it’s that Maori people suffer more mental health issues, often they come in for help at later stages of their lives.

“Their families have been supportive their whole life, then they get to a stage where they acknowledge they need further help.”

The topic of mental health is a complicated one and there is a danger in oversimplifying, warns Ms Baxter.  “What often happens is people want a defined answer.”

“Mental health is something that touches everyone, whether it be directly or indirectly. We all know someone who has been there at some point in their life.”

Infographic showing NZ population of people with psychological distress (6.1%) compared with Maori only stats (9.6%)

If you or a family are in need of help, please contact

Depression Helpline 0800 111 757 Or visit them at

The Low Down Like Minds, Like Mine

Lifeline 24 Hour contact centre 0800 543 354

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is a Whitireia journalism student who takes a keen interest in anything and everything, particularly cats.
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