The associations between migrant status and ethnicity and the identification of individuals at ultra-high risk for psychosis and transition to psychosis: a systematic review

Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol. 2021 Nov;56(11):1923-1941. doi: 10.1007/s00127-021-02047-3. Epub 2021 Feb 28.


Purpose: Migrant and ethnic minority populations exhibit a higher incidence of psychotic disorders. The Ultra-High Risk for psychosis (UHR) paradigm provides an opportunity to explore the stage at which such factors influence the development of psychosis. In this systematic review, we collate and appraise the literature on the association between ethnicity and migrant status and the rate of identification of individuals at UHR, as well as their rate of transition to psychosis.

Methods: We conducted a systematic review in the Ovid Medline, PsychINFO, Pubmed, CINAHL and EMBASE databases according to PRISMA guidelines. We included studies written in English that included an UHR cohort, provided a measure of ethnicity or migrant status, and examined the incidence, rate, or risk of UHR identification or transition to psychosis.

Results: Of 2182 unique articles identified, seven fulfilled the criteria. One study found overrepresentation of UHR individuals from black ethnic groups, while another found underrepresentation. Two studies found increased rates of transition among certain ethnic groups and a further two found no association. Regarding migrant status, one study found that first-generation migrants were underrepresented in an UHR sample. Lastly, a lower transition rate in migrant populations was identified in one study, while two found no association.

Conclusion: Rates of UHR identification and transition according to ethnic and migrant status were inconsistent and insufficient to conclusively explain higher incidences of psychotic disorders among these groups. We discuss the clinical implications and avenues for future research, which is required to clarify the nature of the associations.

Keywords: Ethnicity; Migrants; Systematic review; Transition to psychosis; Ultra-high risk for psychosis.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Ethnicity
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Minority Groups
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Psychotic Disorders* / diagnosis
  • Psychotic Disorders* / epidemiology
  • Risk Factors
  • Transients and Migrants*