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Last Updated: Oct 11, 2012 - 10:22:56 PM
Depression Channel

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Latest Research : Psychiatry : Depression

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Higher rates of depression found among white pupils

Sep 4, 2004 - 10:48:00 PM

[RxPG] The largest UK study of psychological distress among ethnic minority adolescents has found higher rates of depressive symptoms among non-UK White pupils compared with White UK pupils.

However, there were lower rates of psychological distress among Bangladeshi pupils compared with White pupils, despite the highest levels of socio-economic disadvantage being found among the Bangladeshi community.

Research shows that in adults the prevalence of psychological distress varies between ethnic groups, which has been explained by differences in socio-economic status. This study set out to investigate whether the same is true of adolescents.

A cross-sectional questionnaire survey was used to assess 2790 male and female pupils aged 11-14 from a representative sample of 28 East London secondary schools.

Ethnicity was self-rated by the adolescents, and socio-demographic factors obtained from questions about parental employment status, household crowding, family car ownership and eligibility for school meals. Data on mental and physical health were also collected.

It was found that more than three quarters (78%) of the children studied were non-White. 79% had been born in the UK, and 9% had been in the UK for less than five years. The largest ethnic groups were Bangladeshi (25%), White UK (21%) and Black (20%).

All ethnic groups experienced high levels of familial social disadvantage compared with the national average, but this was most evident in the Bangladeshi group.

Rates of psychological distress were similar to rates in UK national samples in boys and girls. These rates increased with age in girls and decreased in boys, in keeping with other studies.

However, Bangladeshi pupils, although highly socially disadvantaged, had a lower risk of psychological distress than White UK pupils. The authors of the study suggest that ethnically-related protective factors, including high ethnic density in the East London Bangladeshi population, may be in operation.

Such factors might also include high levels of family support, religious belief, strong cultural identity and cohesion. If any of these are protective of mental health in the face of social adversity, there may be implications for the prevention of psychological distress in adolescents.

Non-UK White girls had higher rates of depressive symptoms than White UK girls, although this finding was not as marked when recent migration was taken into account. It may be that stressors associated with migration, such as traumatic experiences in the country of origin, separation from parents and friends, and difficulties adjusting to a new, alien environment adversely affect mental health.

This study is further evidence that local services need to know their community well, and be able to interpret local needs. Health promotion strategies that aim to reduce psychological distress in adolescents should focus on understanding the full range of potential protective factors, including cultural ones.

Publication: Royal College of Psychiatrists

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