Objective: Ethnic minorities in the Netherlands experience worse (mental) health than Dutch natives. So far, socioeconomic factors, discrimination, and the migration process have been identified as underlying factors, neglecting the potential role of health-related behaviours. This study investigates the mediating effect of lack of physical activity, smoking and alcohol consumption on ethnic inequalities in (mental) health in the Netherlands.

Design: Data from a municipal health survey (2012) in the four largest cities in the Netherlands, including 15,633 Dutch natives, 1,297 Surinamese, 850 Turks and 779 Moroccans were analysed. Mediation analyses were performed on the associations between ethnicity and psychological distress (range 10–50) and self-rated health (range 1–5).

Results: Being from an ethnic minority was associated with higher distress and poorer self-rated health, especially for Turks (higher distress 4.69, 95%CI 4.22–5.16; poorer health 0.35, 95%CI 0.30–0.40). Moroccans and Turks were the least physically active, Turks smoked the most, and Dutch natives drank the most. Lack of physical activity partially mediated the association between Turks (6% respectively 11%) and Moroccans (13% respectively 9%) for psychological distress and self-rated health. Smoking played a mediating role (3%) in Turks.

Conclusion: Lower physical activity and smoking more cigarettes partly explained ethnic health inequalities in the Netherlands. The current findings suggest that intervening and facilitating certain ethnic groups in engaging in health behaviours could contribute to improving their health and reduce ethnic health inequalities.

Additional Metadata
Keywords Depression, psychological distress, self-rated health, ethnic inequalities, health-related behaviors, mediation analysis
Persistent URL dx.doi.org/10.1080/13557858.2017.1346181, hdl.handle.net/1765/116318
Journal Ethnicity and Health
Erdem, O, Riva, E, Prins, R.G, Burdorf, A, & Van der Doef, M. (2019). Health-related behaviours mediate the relation between ethnicity and (mental) health in the Netherlands. Ethnicity and Health, 24(3), 287–300. doi:10.1080/13557858.2017.1346181