Associations between perceived discrimination and health status among frequent Emergency Department users

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Frequent Emergency Department (ED) users are vulnerable individuals and discrimination is usually associated with increased vulnerability. The aim of this study was to investigate frequent ED users’ perceptions of discrimination and to test whether they were associated with increased vulnerability.


In total, 250 adult frequent ED users were interviewed in Lausanne University Hospital. From a previously published questionnaire, we assessed 15 dichotomous sources of perceived discrimination. Vulnerability was assessed using health status: objective health status (evaluation by a healthcare practitioner including somatic, mental health, behavioral, and social issues – dichotomous variables) and subjective health status [self-evaluation including health-related quality of life (WHOQOL) and quality of life (EUROQOL) – mean-scores]. We computed the prevalence rates of perceived discrimination and tested associations between perceived discrimination and health status (Fischer’s exact tests, Mann–Whitney U-tests).


A total of 35.2% of the frequent ED users surveyed reported at least one source of perceived discrimination. Objective health status was not significantly related to perceived discrimination. In contrast, experiencing perceived discrimination was associated with worse subjective health status (P<0.001).


Frequent ED users are highly likely to report perceived discrimination during ED use, and this was linked to a decrease in their own rating of their health. Hence, discrimination should be taken into account when providing care to such users as it may constitute an additional risk factor for this vulnerable population. Perceived discrimination may also be of concern to professionals seeking to improve practices and provide optimal care to frequent ED users.

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