Racial and ethnic discrimination has a significant impact on the health of people of color, affecting mental health and contributing to high blood pressure, negative health behaviors, and early aging. For Black older adults, the cumulative effects of race-related stress experienced over the course of a life can increase the risk for mental and physical health problems.
In health care settings, experiences of discrimination can include providers dismissing a patient's symptoms or health concerns, offering different treatment based on a patient's type of insurance, or not providing care in a patient's preferred language.
We analyzed findings from the Commonwealth Fund 2021 International Health Policy Survey of Older Adults to examine experiences of racial discrimination in health care settings among Latinx/Hispanic and Black older adults. (See "How We Conducted This Study" for more details.) To provide some cross-national context, we first detail the extent to which older adults in 11 high-income countries believe their national health system treats people unfairly because of race or ethnicity. We then look more in-depth at the United States and report on older Americans' experiences of discrimination and the consequences of health providers' unfair or dismissive treatment. Finally, we consider steps that U.S. health system leaders, health care educators, policymakers, and others can take to address discrimination and dismantle systemic racism in health care.