Long-term ill health, poverty and ethnicity

Author(s): Sarah Salway;   Kaveri Harriss;  

Briefing series: Better Health Briefing Paper 8

Publisher: Race Equality Foundation

Publication date: March 2008

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Long-term ill health, poverty and ethnicity
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This paper examines the social and economic consequences of long-term ill health. These are often greatest for deprived groups and certain minority ethnic groups, as not only do they face the highest rates of long-term ill health and worklessness, but they are also most marginalised from support services. With a benefits system deemed complex, unpredictable and stressful, take-up of sickness-related benefits amongst black and minority ethnic groups is low, whilst policies and services aimed at encouraging people into employment can have negative impacts upon health or caring obligations.

Key messages:

  • The social and economic consequences of long-term ill health are greatest for deprived groups and certain minority ethnic groups. These groups face the highest rates of long-term ill health and worklessness and are also most marginalised from support services
  • Coping with and managing a long-term health condition is strongly affected by the family and household context. But health and welfare services often focus only on the individual, which can be problematic for patients and their family members
  • Social support is key in helping people to come to terms with and manage a long-term health condition. However, many long-term sick people find it hard to maintain their usual social contact and face difficulties in participating in group-based interventions
  • Although many long-term sick people do want to work, policies and services aimed at encouraging people into employment can be problematic as work can impact negatively on their health. Caring obligations create conflicting priorities within households
  • The take-up of sickness-related benefits among eligible people is low, particularly for minority ethnic groups. For many people, the benefits system is experienced as complex, unpredictable and stressful. Wider access to specialist support is required.

Sections:

  • Differing levels of ill health and heightened marginalisation require recognition in policy and practice
  • The family and household context strongly affects the consequences of ill health
  • Tensions over acknowledging ill health restrict social participation and hinder coping
  • The capacities and attitudes of long-term sick people towards work are varied
  • Low take-up of sickness-related benefits