Key statistics about discrimination and minority groups

Written by Emily Whitton
Emily Whitton
Counselling Directory Content Team

Reviewed by Sulette Snyman
Last updated 9th November 2022 | Next update due 8th November 2025

Here, we explore the mental health needs of minority groups, and looks at how some of the barriers can have an impact on the mental health of individuals from different ethnic backgrounds.


Discrimination towards minority groups has existed in society for decades, and though in recent years these negative attitudes have declined, many barriers and disadvantages still exist for those belonging to different cultures.

These barriers occur in day-to-day activities and interactions with people and also in their access to services. Negative attitudes towards race, sexuality and background have been shown to affect an individual’s health in a number of ways.

In 2021/22, 13% of the UK population was from a minority ethnic background. 

Discrimination and health

Discrimination and harassment involve actions or behaviours that offend an individual’s dignity or unfairly penalise them. Discrimination can affect a person’s health in a multitude of ways, including:

  • Chronic and acute stress. This can affect mental well-being and produce physiological changes.
  • Differences in treatment. This can lead to a lesser chance of reaching health-promoting resources.
  • Differences in opportunities. This includes living conditions, employment and education.

Census data for ethnic minorities in the United Kingdom

According to data from the 2011 census, 13% of people in the UK belong to a Black, Asian, Mixed or other ethnic group. 

Of the total population:

  • 6.9% are Asian British or Asian (Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Chinese, Other Asian)
  • 3% are Black British or Black 
  • 2% are multiple or mixed 
  • 0.9% are from other ethnic groups

Black and minority ethnic groups 

Racism and harassment

Racism occurs when someone draws negative thoughts and conclusions about a person because of their biological characteristics. Racial harassment involves violent, threatening or demeaning racially motivated behaviour from one ethnic group to another. 

Experience of racial discrimination and harassment can lead to:

  • high blood pressure
  • lower life satisfaction and self-esteem
  • respiratory illness
  • psychological distress
  • anxiety and depression
  • anger and stress
  • suicidal thoughts

Mental health

A 2008 study that explored the association between socio-economic status, mental health problems and ethnicity, discovered that among adults between the ages of 16 and 64, Black African and Black Caribbean groups typically had double the chance of experiencing psychotic disorders compared with White British groups. The same results were found when observing different socio-economic statuses1.

According to the same study, Bangladeshi and Pakistani women were found to be at an increased risk of developing schizophrenia despite their socio-economic status. In Asian communities, mental health is thought to be influenced by such factors as gender and age.

  • Older Pakistani and Indian women and middle-aged Pakistani men have a much higher rate of common mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety2.
  • South Asian women have a significantly higher rate of common mental health conditions in comparison to Black and white women3.
  • Older South Asian women are an at-risk group for suicide4.

LGBTQ+

In the UK, attitudes towards people in the LGBTQ+ community are steadily improving. However, most LGBTQ+ people have experienced difficulties at some stage of their lives due to their sexuality. Being in the LGBTQ+ community doesn’t directly cause problems with mental health. It’s typically workplace harassment, homophobic bullying, poor responses from mental health professionals and rejection from family and friends that cause mental health distress.

In England, a survey discovered that those who registered with the NHS who were in the LGBTQ+ community were two to three times more likely to report having emotional or psychological problems compared with those who described themselves as heterosexual5.

A British survey conducted in 2011 by Stonewall, a charity that campaigns and lobbies for LGBT rights, found that out of the 6,861 participants, one in 16 bisexual and gay men between 16 and 24 had attempted to take their own life that year. The study also discovered that one in seven bisexual and gay men were exhibiting moderate to severe levels of anxiety and depression that year6.

In 2008, a survey was conducted with 6000 female participants. The survey discovered that four in five bisexual and lesbian women reported having had spells of feeling miserable, sad or depressed. Furthermore, it found that one in five bisexual and lesbian women have deliberately harmed themselves7.


Rural communities

Evidence suggests that rural communities living in remote and isolated places around the UK produce a culture of stoicism towards mental health and promote self-reliance from generation to generation.

Research conducted in Scotland unveiled that there are many cultural traits that are shared between rural and urban communities, yet culture can still vary between them both and even between different rural communities.

A self-reliant culture matched with physical isolation from support services and social networks is believed to contribute towards depression, anxiety and stress in rural areas. Studies also discovered that common mental health issues are not typically recognised by those who reside in rural areas as many do not think these problems need practical support and treatment8.


Equality Act 2010

The Equality Act was first implemented in 2010 and replaces a large proportion of the Disability Discrimination Act. The Act exists to protect disabled people from unfair treatment and to legally prevent discrimination in the workplace and in wider society.

Though many individuals associate the term 'disability' with a physical impairment, the Equality Act 2010 also covers mental health problems. Instead of providing a list of conditions covered by The Act, it instead takes each individual's personal circumstances and the effects of their impairment into account. For example, those suffering from mild depression with minor side effects may not be covered, whereas individuals who are seriously affected by a mental health condition which inhibits their ability to perform everyday tasks are likely to be considered disabled.


How can counselling help?

Counselling can help with a number of mental health concerns including:

  • low self-esteem and low self-confidence
  • stress and anxiety
  • cultural adjustment and isolation
  • loss and bereavement
  • relationship issues
  • surviving domestic violence, abuse and trauma

Attending counselling sessions enables you to talk to a non-judgmental person who will work with you to improve on your current situation. This will be in a confidential space where a counsellor/psychotherapist will listen to what you have to say.

A counsellor will not necessarily tell you what to do. Instead, they will help you gain a better understanding of the issues that are on your mind with the idea of enabling you to look at them from a different perspective. Together with your counsellor, you can find a way to address the difficulties in your life.


References

  • 1 Kirkbride, J.B. et al. (2008). Psychoses, ethnicity and socio-economic status.
  • 2 Weich, S. et al. (2004). Common mental disorders and ethnicity in England: the EMPIRIC study.
  • 3 Bebbington, P. et al. (2009). Adult Psychiatric Morbidity in England, 2007: results of a household survey.
  • 4 Mental Health Foundation. Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities.
  • 5 Elliott, M. et al. (2015). Sexual Minorities in England Have Poorer Health and Worse Health Care Experiences.
  • 6 Guasp, A. (2012). Gay and Bisexual Men’s Health Survey.
  • 7 Hunt R & Fish, J. (2008). Prescription for Change: Lesbian and bisexual women’s health check.
  • 8 Scottish Association for Mental Health. (2012). Remote and Rural Mental Health.
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