Schizophrenia risk highest in small ethnic groups

December 06, 2001

Incidence of schizophrenia in ethnic minorities in London: ecological study into interactions with environment BMJ Volume 323, pp 1336-7

The rate of schizophrenia among people from non-white ethnic groups rises as the proportion of these groups fall in the local population, finds a study in this week's BMJ.

Jane Boydell and colleagues analysed information on all people from a defined area of south London who had contact with psychiatric services during 1988-97. They found that the rate of schizophrenia in non-white ethnic minorities was highest in those areas where these minorities comprised a small proportion of the population and lowest where they comprised a large proportion.

These findings point towards there being a social cause for the increased rate of schizophrenia reported in non-white ethnic groups in the United Kingdom, say the authors.

Specific stresses for people in ethnic minority groups could include overt discrimination, institutionalised racism, alienation, and isolation. The more isolated a member of an ethnic minority, the more likely he or she may be to encounter such stresses. People from ethnic minorities may also be more likely to be singled out or be more vulnerable when they are in a small minority, say the authors.

Reduced protection from the effects of such stresses could be due to decreased social networks or social buffers in small or dispersed ethnic minority populations, they conclude.


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