The 2013 British Social Attitudes Survey found that 305 of the population say that they are either ‘very’ (3%) or ‘a little’ (27%) prejudiced against people of other races – the proportion is highest for those in the over 55 age group. In terms of Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) populations, the proportion feeling that racial or religious harassment was a ‘very big’ or ‘fairly big’ problem in their local area was highest among the Muslim respondents (14%) and lowest among Buddhists (4%). Chinese men and women, Pakistani men, Indian-Sikh men, Indian-Muslim men and Bangladeshi women were more likely to experience ethnic and racial harassment than others.

Qualitative research into experiences of racist harassment and discrimination in the UK demonstrates that for many people experiences of interpersonal racism are a part of everyday life, that the way they lead their lives is constrained by fear of racial harassment, and that being made to feel different is routine and expected. This impacts mental and physical health with research demonstrating perceived racism being consistently associated with poorer psychological wellbeing. Repeated exposure to racial discrimination is widely acknowledged to have an incremental negative long-term effect on mental health. It is worth bearing in mind that racism can manifest itself in a variety of ways; it can be overt or discrete, intentional and unintentional, interpersonal and institutional. Hate Crime figures consistently show that race is the largest factor determining incidents. This puts additional pressure on communities as the psychological impact is for others to feel under threat which affects overall mental health and resilience within the communities as a whole. And, when BME people try to access healthcare they have reported differences in care and wide variation in outcome. Research has found that insensitivity and inappropriateness in service provision is likely to contribute to health inequalities both by leading to poor care (for instance due to poor communication, missed diagnoses and poor adherence to treatment) and by undermining the mental wellbeing of patients through being stressful.

Racist discrimination also indirectly produces poorer health outcomes via exclusionary processes operating within the education system and within the employment and housing markets. For example a study for the Department of Work and Pensions found that BME applicants had to send 16 applications for positive outcome compared with 9 for White applicants.


Salway S, Nazroo J, Mir G, et al. Fair Society, Healthy Lives – a missed opportunity to address ethnic inequalities in health. BMJ 2010: 340

Weich S, Nazroo J, Sprossten K, et al. Common mental disorders and ethnicity in England: the EMPIRIC study. Psychological Medicine 2004:34:1543-1551.