Child mental health differences amongst ethnic groups in Britain: a systematic review

BMC Public Health. 2008 Jul 25;8:258. doi: 10.1186/1471-2458-8-258.


Background: Inter-ethnic differences have been reported for many mental health outcomes in the UK, but no systematic review on child mental health has been published. The aim of this review is to compare the population-based prevalence of child mental disorders between ethnic groups in Britain, and relate these findings to ethnic differences in mental health service use.

Methods: A systematic search of bibliographic databases for population-based and clinic-based studies of children aged 0-19, including all ethnic groups and the main child mental disorders. We synthesised findings by comparing each minority group to the White British study sample.

Results: 31 population-based and 18 clinic-based studies met the inclusion criteria. Children in the main minority groups have similar or better mental health than White British children for common disorders, but may have higher rates for some less common conditions. The causes of these differences are unclear. There may be unmet need for services among Pakistani and Bangladeshi children.

Conclusion: Inter-ethnic differences exist but are largely unexplained. Future studies should address the challenges of cross-cultural psychiatry and investigate reasons for inter-ethnic differences.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Data Collection / methods
  • England / epidemiology
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / ethnology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / ethnology*
  • Mental Health Services / standards
  • Minority Groups / statistics & numerical data*
  • Prevalence
  • Religion