Research shows raised incidence of psychoses among migrant groups

November 04, 2008

Researchers examining the occurrence of psychoses among migrant groups have shown a raised incidence for all black and ethnic minority subgroups compared with white British counterparts, and reveal that the risk of psychoses for first and second generations varies by ethnicity. Findings from the East London First Episode Psychosis Study, which recommend that further research should focus on differential rates of psychoses by ethnicity, rather than between generations, are published in the journal Archives of General Psychiatry on 3rd November, 2008.

Led by Professor of Forensic Psychiatry at Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, Jeremy Coid, and Dr James Kirkbride from the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Cambridge, the research shows that both first and subsequent generation groups in England are at higher risk of schizophrenia and other psychoses (in line with previous literature). Unknown prior to this study, was whether rates were further elevated in second and later generations (i.e. UK born) ethnic minority groups, than in their first generation counterparts.

Professor Coid's and Dr Kirkbride's research suggests that in fact rates are not consistently elevated to a greater extent for later generations (in comparison to the first) but that much depends on the ethnic group in question, and more specifically their age profile. The study, for example, shows incidence rates of psychoses are significantly (statistically) greater for second compared with first generation black Caribbean immigrants, yet their respective age profiles reveal that this is primarily because the second generation are more likely to be in the peak at-risk ages for psychoses (under 30) and that the first generation, having migrated in the 1950s and 1960s whilst in their 20s and 30s, have now moved out of the critical age period of risk for psychoses into their 50s, 60s and 70s.

For other ethnic - such as Asian - groups, rates are elevated among the first generation, who tend to be younger and have migrated to the UK more recently - there are too few second and later generation Asian groups in the sample to detect significantly elevated rates. This is important because it helps to show that while ethnic minority groups are at elevated risk of psychoses compared with the white British, the second generation are not at even greater risk than the first, as speculated by some commentators.

Professor Coid said: "This research shifts the emphasis away from genetics and brain structure to social stress factors experienced by minority groups and the protective factors that buffer them against these stresses. All migrants are at risk of discrimination and other forms of social exclusion and mental health can be adversely affected by these experiences. But why should some minority groups be at greater risk than others? It may be that those who are at greater risk have fewer protective factors. The most likely factors buffering vulnerable persons against social stress include cultural factors relating to that minority group in the population, such as religious and other cultural practices. But family structure is probably the most important protective factor for coping with adverse experiences."
-end-
"Raised Incidence Rates of all Psychoses Among Migrant Groups" is published advanced online in Archives of General Psychiatry on Monday 3 November 2008.

The East London First Episode Psychosis Study is a large population-based incidence study conducted during 2 years in the 3 neighbouring London boroughs of Hackney, Newham and Tower Hamlets.

For further information contact:

Alex Fernandes
Communications Office
Queen Mary, University of London
Tel: 020 7882 7910
Email: a.fernandes@qmul.ac.uk

Or

Genevieve Maul
Office of External Affairs and Communications
University of Cambridge
Tel: 01223 332 300

Notes to Editors:

Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry - at Queen Mary, University of London - offers international levels of excellence in research and teaching while serving a population of unrivalled diversity amongst which cases of diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, TB, oral disease and cancers are prevalent, within east London and the wider Thames Gateway. Through partnership with our linked trusts, notably Barts and The London NHS Trust, and our associated University Hospital trusts - Homerton, Newham, Whipps Cross and Queen's - the School's research and teaching is informed by an exceptionally wide ranging and stimulating clinical environment.

At the heart of the School's mission lies world class research, the result of a focused programme of recruitment of leading research groups from the UK and abroad and a £100 million investment in state-of-the-art facilities. Research is focused on translational research, cancer, cardiology, clinical pharmacology, inflammation, infectious diseases, stem cells, dermatology, gastroenterology, haematology, diabetes, neuroscience, surgery and dentistry.

The School is nationally and internationally recognised for research in these areas, reflected in the £40 million it attracts annually in research income. Its fundamental mission, with its partner NHS Trusts, and other partner organisations such as CRUK, is to ensure that that the best possible clinical service is underpinned by the very latest developments in scientific and clinical teaching, training and research.

Queen Mary University of London

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