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Dispossession and defeat also have psychological, social and cultural consequences for Native Hawaiians. By all major social indices — health, education, employment, income — Native Hawaiians display distinct disparities with their fellow citizens.
Health Concerns. The impact of Western diseases on Native Hawaiians was historically devastating. Waves of epidemics reduced the estimated contact population of 300,000 in 1778, to 34,000 by 1893. The implications of this decimation have been considered in a variety of contexts.
Western observers, beginning in 1838, noted that unless some dramatic improvement were made in the health conditions of Native Hawaiians that the race would disappear. These initial feelings of horror and dismay over the fatal impact of Western contact gradually altered.
After the publication of Darwin's Origin of Species, Europeans and Americans began to adopt the attitudes and policies of Social Darwinism. The theory of "the survival of the fittest" was applied to nations, and validated Western expansion and imperialism as the natural working out of an inevitable progression of conquest and colonization.
Acquired immunity and intermarriage among Native Hawaiians, however, was reversing this trend. Demographic trends now indicate that the population had reached its lowest level in the final decade of the 19th Century, would stabilize for about twenty years, and then begin a dramatic recovery.
Today's Native Hawaiian population numbers an estimated 175,000 individuals, more than half of whom are less than 19 years old.
The health characteristics of this group, however, are adversely and consistently affected by mental health disorders, stress-related diseases, and an absence of culturally-sensitive health professionals.
As developed in depth within the body of this study, the following findings are offered:
- the psychological despair and sense of being a conquered people in their own homeland is a factor in the health conditions of Native Hawaiians;
- Native Hawaiians have the lowest life expectancy of any ethnic group in the State of Hawai'i: 67 years compared to a Statewide average of 74 years;
- the leading causes of death for Native Hawaiians, in order of prevalence, are heart diseases, cancers, stroke, and accidents;
- Native Hawaiians have the highest infant death rate in the State of Hawai'i: 14 per 1,000 live births compared to a statewide average of 10 per thousand;
- mental health assessments indicate that Native Hawaiians have a higher-than-expected incidence of personality disorders, mental retardation, and drug abuse than their proportion of the population; and
- suicide rates among Native Hawaiian males (statistics are unavailable for females) is the highest in the State of Hawai'i: 22.5 per 100,000 in the population, compared to a rate of 13.5 for males of all races in Hawai'i — rates in the 20-34 year age group of Native Hawaiians was even higher.
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