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(NZ) Pacific Peoples More Vulnerable To Dependency

New Zealand-Born Pacific Peoples More Vulnerable To Mental Illness, Alcohol Dependency

7 November 2007, New Zealand Drug Foundation

New Zealand-born Pacific peoples are twice as likely to suffer from mental disorders, and experience higher rates of alcohol dependency, compared with those born in the Pacific says a leading Pacific psychiatrist.

Dr Siale 'Alo Foliaki is a graduate of Otago Medical School and one of only three psychiatrists of Pacific descent working in New Zealand.

Speaking to the combined Australasian Professional Society on Alcohol and other Drugs (APSAD) and Cutting Edge Addiction Conference in Auckland today, Dr Foliaki said there was no one reason for this discrepancy between Pacific peoples born in New Zealand and those who migrate here after the age of eighteen.

"The younger the age at which they migrate to New Zealand, the higher are their chances of suffering from alcohol addiction and mental health problems."

Dr Foliaki believes this major finding suggests there are two very different Pacific populations in New Zealand - that will experience two very different life trajectories in relation to not only drug and alcohol problems but their overall mental wellbeing.

"Migrant indigenous Pacific peoples face enormous challenges as they transition from third world islands to first world countries. They appear to be more resilient if they spend their childhood years in the Pacific before migrating to New Zealand. If they grow up in New Zealand, they seem to be more vulnerable," he said.

Dr Foliaki suggests the best approach would be to focus on Pacific children growing up in New Zealand from their birth through to their sixth birthday.

"This is the time interventions have the greatest impact on people's long-term wellbeing. Pacific babies and children in this country are at great risk of long-term psychological problems because of the combination of socio-economic deprivation and cultural fragmentation."

The research was carried out as part of Te Rau Hinengaro - the New Zealand Mental Health Survey - which is the largest mental health and substance disorder survey ever undertaken in New Zealand. The survey highlights the significant differences in rates of alcohol abuse and dependence (and to a lesser extent drug abuse/dependence) between Pacific peoples and the total New Zealand population.

The conference is on from Sunday 4 November - Wednesday 7 November at the Aotea Centre, Auckland.


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