Background: To examine the effects of ethnic discrimination on the mental health of Ecuadorian immigrants in Spain and to assess the roles of material and social resources.
Methods: Data were taken from the “Neighbourhood characteristics, immigration and mental health” survey conducted in 2006 in 33 areas of Spain. Interviews were conducted at home with an overall response of 69%. Psychological distress measured as “Possible Psychiatric Case” [PPC] was measured by the GHQ-28. A logistic regression was fitted to assess the association between PPC and discrimination adjusting for potential confounders. Interactions of discrimination with social and material resources were tested using product terms.
Results: Some 28% of the participants met our definition of PPC. About 20% of those who reported no discrimination were PPCs, rising to 30% of those who sometimes felt discriminated against and 41% of those who continually perceived discrimination. The OR for continuous discrimination was 12 [95%CI 3.5-40.3] among those with high financial strain, and 10 [2.4-41.7] when there was lack of economic support. Emotional support had an independent effect on PPC (OR of 1.8 [1.0-3.6] for those who reported having no friends). Social integration through a community group or association was positively related to the probability of being a PPC (OR of 1.7 [1.0-2.9]).
Conclusion: Ethnic discrimination is associated with psychological distress in these Ecuadorian immigrants in Spain. Discrimination effects may be exacerbated among those facing economic stress and those without economic support. These particularly vulnerable immigrants should be the subject of social and health interventions.