12 Jul 2021

Breaking the homogeneity of 'Asian': Report on inequities among students

From Voices, 7:00 am on 12 July 2021

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Nikki Singh (R) and Lovely Dizon (L) on their involvement in the Youth19 report on East and South Asian students in Aotearoa

Nikki Singh (R) and Lovely Dizon (L) on their involvement in the Youth19 report on East and South Asian students in Aotearoa Photo: RNZ/Kadambari Gladding

A new report, Youth19, is the latest in the Youth2000 survey series which asks more than 7000 students about everything from family life to sexual activity.

It highlights health and wellbeing findings for Asian students in Aotearoa - their strengths, challenges, and experiences are mapped out in this.

Nikki Singh, who is Fiji-Indian, and Lovely Dizon, Filipina, both in their early 20s, were involved in the research and co-authored parts of this report.

In many ways, their experience of growing up in New Zealand is echoed in the report findings - from lack of safe spaces, to "achievement pressure", poverty, mental health, and discrimination.

"It was validating to know those experiences growing up, weren't yours only."

"It isn't all doom and gloom," Singh said about the many positive findings in the report.

"There are several positive findings as well."

Disaggregating data for the overall Asian group into East Asian and South Asian helps with a better understanding of relationships between ethnicity and health, and to extract information for targeted interventions - be that in schools, healthcare providers, and at policy level. 

"Getting away from that overly broad 'Asian' label opens up opportunities for targeted interventions," said Dr Peiris-John, co-director of the Centre for Asian and Ethnic Minority Health Research and Evaluation (CAHRE) at the University of Auckland, and lead author of the report.

Listen to the full interview on the the findings of the report told through the experiences of Nikki Singh, Lovely Dizon. 

Some of the data in the report shows that South Asian students, from India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Maldives, and Bangladesh, experience higher rates of poverty, with 15 percent having parents who always worried about money for food. Students from East Asian countries, from China in the west and north to Japan in the east and Indonesia in the south, are less likely to report concerns around poverty.

East Asian students have higher mental health needs than South Asian students, with about a third experiencing significant depressive symptoms. East Asian students were also less likely to access health care (73 percent) and had higher unmet health care needs (21 percent).

This podcast episode contains references to self-harm and suicide. 

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