Where next for understanding race/ethnic inequalities in severe mental illness? Structural, interpersonal and institutional racism

Sociol Health Illn. 2020 Feb;42(2):262-276. doi: 10.1111/1467-9566.13001. Epub 2019 Sep 27.


In this article we use the example of race/ethnic inequalities in severe mental illness to demonstrate the utility of a novel integrative approach to theorising the role of racism in generating inequality. Ethnic minority people in the UK are at much greater risk than White British people of being diagnosed with a severe - psychosis related - mental illness, and this is particularly the case for those with Black Caribbean or Black African origins. There is entrenched dispute about how we might understand the drivers of this inequality. To address this dispute we build on, and to a certain extent refine, established approaches to theorising structural and institutional racism, and integrate this within a theoretical framework that also incorporates racist/discriminatory interactions (interpersonal racism). We argue that this provides a conceptually robust and thorough analysis of the role of inter-related dimensions of racism in shaping risks of severe mental illness, access to care, and policy and practice responses. This analysis carries implications for a broader, but integrated, understanding of the fundamental drives of race/ethnic inequalities in health and for an anti-racism public health agenda.

Keywords: disparity; ethnicity; inequality; psychosis; race; racism.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Blacks / statistics & numerical data
  • Healthcare Disparities / ethnology*
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders / ethnology*
  • Racism*
  • Severity of Illness Index*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • United Kingdom
  • Whites / statistics & numerical data