A healthy immune system is required to protect against viral infection and ensure the efficacy of vaccines. Psychological distress can threaten immune resilience, while mindfulness practices can be protective. In New Zealand, Māori experience significantly higher levels of distress compared to non-Māori. The aim of this study was to explore the role of ethnicity in the relations among immunity, depression, anxiety, stress, and mindfulness relate to each other.
Network analysis was used to explore unique relations among distress (depression, anxiety, stress), mindfulness facets, and immune status in matched (age, ranging from 19 to 88 years, sex, and self-classified socio-economic status) samples of Māori (n=195) and non-Māori (n=195) participants from New Zealand.
The networks of distress, mindfulness, and immune status were significantly different between Māori and non-Māori participants. The mindfulness facets Describe and Act with Awareness were more strongly positively linked in Māori, and Non-judge and Depression more strongly negatively linked in Māori, while Describe and Non-judge were more strongly positively linked in non-Māori. For both Māori and non-Māori, similarities included a negative link between anxiety and immune status, strong positive links between the distress variables, and positive links between the mindfulness facets of Non-judge and Act with Awareness, Observe and Non-React, and Observe and Describe.
These findings suggest that anxiety is strongly linked to poor immunity across both Māori and non-Māori in New Zealand while networks of mindfulness and distress also demonstrated differences unique for each of these groups. Both similarities and differences between Māori and non-Māori should be considered when developing targeted interventions to improve physical and mental health in New Zealand.
This study is not preregistered.