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Open Access Research article

Perceived discrimination and health-related quality of life among Arabs and Jews in Israel: A population-based survey

Orna Baron Epel1*, Giora Kaplan2 and Mika Moran1

Author Affiliations

1 The School of Public Health, Faculty of Social Welfare and Health Studies, University of Haifa, Israel

2 Gertner Institute for Epidemiology and Health Policy Research, Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer, Israel

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BMC Public Health 2010, 10:282  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-10-282

Published: 27 May 2010



Studies have shown that perceived discrimination may be associated with impaired health. The aim of this study was to assess the levels of perceived discrimination on the basis of origin and ethnicity and measure the association with health in three population groups in Israel: non-immigrant Jews, immigrants from the former Soviet Union, and Arabs.


A cross sectional random telephone survey was performed in 2006 covering 1,004 Israelis aged 35-65; of these, 404 were non-immigrant Jews, 200 were immigrants from the former Soviet Union and 400 were Arabs, the final number for regression analysis was 952. Respondents were asked about their perceived experiences with discrimination in seven different areas. Quality of life, both physical and mental were measured by the Short Form 12.


Perceived discrimination on the basis of origin was highest among immigrants. About 30% of immigrants and 20% of Arabs reported feeling discriminated against in areas such as education and employment. After adjusting for socioeconomic variables, discrimination was associated with poor physical health among non-immigrant Jews (OR = 0.42, CI = 0.19, 0.91) and immigrants (OR = 0.51, CI = 0.27, 0.94), but not among Arabs. Poor mental health was significantly associated with discrimination only among non-immigrant Jews (OR = 0.42, CI = 0.18, 0.96).


Perceived discrimination seemed high in both minority populations in Israel (Arabs and immigrants) and needs to be addressed as such. However, discrimination was associated with physical health only among Jews (non-immigrants and immigrants), and not among Arabs. These results may be due to measurement artifacts or may be a true phenomenon, further research is needed to ascertain the results.