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Ethnic differences in mental health and race-based data collection

Chiu M. Healthc Q. 2017; 20(3):6-9.


There is strong evidence of ethnic disparities in chronic medical conditions, such as diabetes and cardiovascular diseases; however, less is known about ethnic differences in mental illness and health service utilization. Previous studies have shown that Asians are more likely to avoid or delay seeking help for their mental illness. We conducted a population-based study using Ontario health administrative data to examine ethnic differences in mental illness severity at hospital presentation. We found that Chinese and South Asian psychiatric patients were significantly more likely to be involuntarily admitted and exhibited more aggressive behaviours and psychotic symptoms compared to the general population. Our study highlights the need to better understand how individual, family and health-system factors contribute to the observed ethnic disparities. This paper also describes the current status of ethnicity and race-based data collection in Ontario and the benefits of routinely collecting more ethnicity data in our healthcare system to ensure equitable healthcare access and outcomes for all Ontarians.

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