Mental health service utilization by Ethiopian immigrants and refugees in Toronto

J Nerv Ment Dis. 2006 Dec;194(12):925-34. doi: 10.1097/01.nmd.0000249109.71776.58.


The purpose of this study was to examine the mental health service utilization patterns of Ethiopians in Toronto. A cross-sectional epidemiological survey of 342 randomly selected adults was conducted, based on a conceptual model of healthcare utilization suggested by Anderson and Newman. The results suggested that 5% of the respondents sought mental health services from healthcare professionals and 8% consulted nonhealthcare professionals. Although Ethiopians' utilization rate of mental health services did not greatly differ from the rates of the general population of Ontario (6%), only a small proportion (12.5%) of Ethiopians with mental disorders used services from healthcare professionals, mostly family physicians. The data also suggested that Ethiopians were more likely to consult traditional healers than healthcare professionals for mental health problems (18.8% vs. 12.5%). In multivariate logistic regression analyses, while the number of somatic symptoms experienced was positively associated with increased mental healthcare utilization (OR = 1.515, p < 0.05), having a mental disorder was associated with decreased mental healthcare utilization (OR = 0.784, p < 0.01). Our findings have important implications for mental health services. On the one hand, the findings suggest that somatic symptoms could lead to increased use of mental health services, particularly family physicians' services. On the other hand, the data suggested that although the mental healthcare needs of Ethiopians are high, they use fewer mental health services from healthcare professionals. It would seem that family physicians could play important role in identifying and treating Ethiopian clients with somatic symptoms, as these symptoms may reflect mental disorder.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Black People / statistics & numerical data*
  • Community Mental Health Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Emigration and Immigration / statistics & numerical data*
  • Ethiopia / ethnology
  • Family Practice / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Health Care Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medicine, African Traditional
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Mental Disorders / therapy
  • Middle Aged
  • Ontario / epidemiology
  • Physicians, Family / statistics & numerical data
  • Refugees / statistics & numerical data*
  • Sampling Studies