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Differences in clinical presentation at first hospitalization and the impact on involuntary admissions among first-generation migrant groups with non-affective psychotic disorders


Background — Some migrant and ethnic minority groups have a higher risk of coercive pathways to care; however, it is unclear whether differences in clinical presentation contribute to this risk. We sought to assess: (i) whether there were differences in clinician-rated symptoms and behaviours across first-generation immigrant and refugee groups at the first psychiatric hospitalization after psychosis diagnosis, and (ii) whether these differences accounted for disparities in involuntary admission.

Methods — Using population-based health administrative data from Ontario, Canada, we constructed a sample (2009–2013) of incident cases of non-affective psychotic disorder followed for two years to identify first psychiatric hospitalization. We compared clinician-rated symptoms and behaviours at admission between first-generation immigrants and refugees and the general population, and adjusted for these variables to ascertain whether the elevated prevalence of involuntary admission persisted.

Results — Immigrants and refugee groups tended to have lower ratings for affective symptoms, self-harm behaviours, and substance use, as well as higher levels of medication nonadherence and poor insight. Immigrant groups were more likely to be perceived as aggressive and a risk of harm to others, and both groups were perceived as having self-care issues. Adjustment for perceived differences in clinical presentation at admission did not attenuate the higher prevalence of involuntary admission for immigrant and refugee groups.

Conclusions — First-generation migrant groups may differ in clinical presentation during the early course of psychotic illness, although these perceived differences did not explain the elevated rates of involuntary admission. Further research using outpatient samples and tools with established cross-cultural validity are warranted.



Anderson KK, Rodrigues R. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol. 2023; 58(9):1329-41. Epub 2023 Mar 16.

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