Study: 1 in 5 U.S. adults subjected to race, gender bias in healthcare system

More than one in five adults in the U.S. has faced bias in the healthcare system, a new study has found. File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI
More than one in five adults in the U.S. has faced bias in the healthcare system, a new study has found. File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo

Dec. 15 (UPI) -- One in five adults in the United States faces discrimination when accessing the healthcare system, according to an analysis published Tuesday by JAMA Network Open.

In a survey of more than 2,100 people, nearly two in five participants reported they experienced racial and ethnic discrimination when seeking medical care, making it the most common form of bias, the data showed.


More than one in 10 participants reported being discriminated against based on their education or income level when they visited a doctor's office or went to the hospital.

And roughly one in 10 reported experiencing bias based on their body weight, were discriminated against based on their gender or experienced age discrimination, according to the researchers.

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"Discrimination is not uncommon in healthcare," study co-author Paige Nong told UPI.

"We want our findings to show people who have experienced this kind of discrimination, which is often isolating and difficult to process, that that they are not alone," said Nong, a doctoral candidate in sociology at the University of Michigan.

Although it's generally understood that the U.S. healthcare delivery system has "historically engaged in the systematic segregation and discrimination of patients," the day-to-day scope of this bias remains unknown, the American Academy of Family Physicians notes on its website.


For their study, Nong and her colleagues surveyed 2,137 adults aged 18 years and older in the United States, focusing specifically in discrimination in healthcare.

Just over 21% of respondents said they experienced discrimination in healthcare settings, with 72% reporting more than one incident, the data showed.

Women were 88% more likely to face discrimination as they accessed care, while those who reported being in good or excellent health had a 60% lower risk for suffering bias, the researchers said.

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"The level of discrimination reported in our study was slightly higher than we anticipated," Nong said.

"Our study seeks to bring awareness of the prevalence of discrimination to policymakers and healthcare systems so they can work hard to prevent discrimination in healthcare settings," she said.

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