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Worsening mental health and wellbeing outcomes for Pasifika in Aotearoa - report

young Pacific woman
Source: RNZ

Wellington, NEW ZEALAND — A new report released by Te Hiringa Mahara — Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission paints a grim picture of Pacific peoples wellbeing in New Zealand.

The 'Achieving equity of Pacific mental health and wellbeing outcomes' report found Pasifika reported being worse off in all wellbeing metrics, apart from family wellbeing.

It said from 2018 to 2021, there was a 71 percent increase in the likelihood that Pasifika would experience racist discrimination and Pacific people are finding it harder to be themselves.

Other findings said Pasifika are much less likely to feel their household income meets everyday needs compared to non-Pacific peoples. Half of Pacific families are going without fresh fruit and vegetables due to cost.

Pasifika are at least 1.4 times less likely than non-Pacific young peoples to be enrolled in any formal or informal study.

In 2018, Pacific peoples' were feeling less lonely than non-Pacific peoples however the reverse is now true.

They are also less satisfied with their life and in the last few years Pasifika have experienced worsening life satisfaction.


Report lead Dr Ella Cullen said wellbeing metrics are worsening for all people but not to the same extent as Pacific peoples'.

"The report does talk about Pacific peoples' finding Aotearoa less welcoming and less understanding, there are other findings that you could read into as well in terms of finding it harder to be themselves in Aotearoa," Cullen said.

"New Zealand does need to set Pacific people up for success and everybody in Aotearoa deserves to thrive and it does start by addressing some of these root causes of mental health and wellbeing."

Cullen said young people are also feeling a lower sense of belonging in mainstream schools which was concerning.

The report said in 2018 Pacific young peoples were more likely to experience a higher sense of belonging at school, however, this dropped in 2021 below non-Pacific people.

"It's a good proxy for how young people are doing generally in terms of getting to school and then staying at school," she said.

Cullen said improvements in mental health outcomes require increased effort across government agencies.

"There's a need to for ongoing leadership from the Ministry of Pacific Peoples and Pacific leaders," she said.

Cullen also said there needed to be more holistic on the ground support for Pacific families.

"We do need to make it easier for Pacific peoples' to access a range of services from organizations that are embedded in their culture."

Earlier this month, the Ministry of Pacific Peoples confirmed it was shedding over 50 roles as part of the coalition government's public sector cost cutting measures.

The cuts reduced the ministry's workforce by 37 percent, which according to the Public Service Association national secretary Duane Leo, "means the ministry will have fewer resources to properly serve the approximately 400,000 Pasifika people in New Zealand".