Indian students in New Zealand report low levels of perceived security at school, with some remaining absent as a result, according to a new survey.
The Youth 2000 national survey, conducted by the Auckland Regional Public Health Service and Auckland University, asked 922 Asian students about their mental and physical health, besides experiences at home and school.
Chinese and Indian students made up the majority of students who call themselves Asians. The survey, however, did not include students who spoke limited English and fee-paying non-New Zealand students. Indians comprise a little over one percent of New Zealand's population of around four million.
The survey said though Indian students perceive low levels of security, they report less bullying than New Zealand European students. At the same time, the survey also found that Indian students in New Zealand suffer worse experiences of bullying than New Zealand Europeans.
Most Indian students plan to stay at school until year 13.
The report said that mental health was a matter of particular concern for Indian students. They report higher levels of depression than New Zealand European students and many students report suicidal thoughts and attempts. It is worse in the case of female Indian students.
Many Indian female students report missing breakfast and being unhappy with their body weight.
What was of particular concern was that Indian students, especially females, report low levels of physical activity. This is a particular concern since Indians face higher risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes as adults in New Zealand.
According to the report's lead author, Kumanan Rasanathan, young Asian New Zealanders were healthy, but there were some areas of concern, such as mental health and bullying. Poor access to healthcare, particularly among young Chinese, was also worrying.
A report in the New Zealand Herald newspaper quoted Rasanathan as saying that more research was needed to find out why students felt unsafe in schools.
"I can speculate, but it would just be speculation. But we know from some of the overseas literature that children from ethnic minorities often do face more racism, discrimination and often do have problems with acceptance at school," he told the newspaper.
"It's possible that some of those things contribute. What they also face is often a cultural gap between the expectations of their family environment, and the expectations of their peers," he added.
The survey also found that, overall, Indians are a healthy group of students, with most of them reporting positive family environments.
They also report lower levels of risky behaviour than their New Zealand European counterparts. Such behaviours include drunken driving, sexual activity and alcohol, tobacco and marijuana use.
However, the survey found that many Indian students are still at risk from behaviours such as binge drinking. Male Indian students report higher levels of risky behaviours than female Indian students, including not using safety equipment, exposure to drunken driving, alcohol use, binge drinking and marijuana use.