Discrimination reported by older adults living with mental health conditions: types, contexts and association with healthcare barriers

Jeromey B. Temple, Bianca Brijnath, Joanne Enticott, Ariane Utomo, Ruth Williams, Margaret Kelaher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


Objective: Australian policy-making needs better information on the prevalence, context and types of discrimination reported by people living with mental health conditions and the association of exposure to discrimination with experiencing a barrier to accessing healthcare. Methods: Secondary data analysis using the national representative General Social Survey 2014 to examine discrimination and healthcare barriers. Multivariable logistic regression was used to examine the association between discrimination and barriers to healthcare. Results: Around 10% of older adults without mental health conditions reported an instance of discrimination in the last 12 months, compared to 22–25% of those with mental health conditions. Approximately 20% with mental health conditions attributed discrimination to their health conditions, along with other characteristics including age. Discrimination was reported in settings important to human capital (e.g., healthcare, workplace), but also in general social and public contexts. Everyday discrimination (OR = 2.11 p < 0.001), discrimination in healthcare (OR = 2.92 p < 0.001), and discrimination attributed to the person’s health condition (OR = 1.99 p < 0.05) increased the odds of experiencing a barrier to care two-to-three-fold. For each type of discrimination reported (e.g., racism, ageism etc.), the odds of experiencing a barrier to care increased 1.3 times (OR = 1.29 p < 0.01). Conclusion: This new population-level evidence shows older adults with mental health conditions are experiencing discrimination at more than twofold compared to those without mental health conditions. Discrimination was associated with preventing or delaying healthcare access. These findings indicate that future strategies to promote mental healthcare in underserved groups of older people will need to be multidimensional and consideration given to address discrimination.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages12
JournalSocial Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2020


  • Ageing
  • Ageism
  • Discrimination
  • Healthcare barriers
  • Healthcare seeking
  • Mental health

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