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Ethnic differences in mental health status and service utilization: a population-based study in Ontario, Canada


Background — The purpose of this study was to compare the prevalence of self-reported mental health factors, mental health service use and unmet needs across the 4 largest ethnic groups in Ontario, Canada: white, South Asian, Chinese, and black groups.

Methods — The study population was derived from the Canadian Community Health Survey, using a cross-sectional sample of 254,951 white, South Asian, Chinese, and black residents living in Ontario, Canada between 2001 and 2014. Age- and sex-standardized prevalence estimates for mental health factors, mental health service use, and unmet needs were calculated for each of the 4 ethnic groups overall and by sociodemographic characteristics.

Results — We found that that self-reported physician-diagnosed mood and anxiety disorders and mental health service use was generally lower among South Asian, Chinese, and black respondents compared to white respondents. Chinese individuals reported the weakest sense of belonging to their local community and the poorest self-rated mental health and were nearly as likely to report suicidal thoughts in the past year as white respondents. Among those self-reporting fair or poor mental health, less than half sought help from a mental health professional, ranging from only 19.8% in the Chinese group to 50.8% in the white group.

Conclusions — The prevalence of mental health factors and mental health service use varied widely across ethnic groups. Efforts are needed to better understand and address cultural and system-level barriers surrounding high unmet needs and to identify ethnically-tailored and culturally-appropriate clinical supports and practices to ensure equitable and timely mental healthcare.



Chiu M, Amartey A, Wang X, Kurdyak P. Can J Psychiatry. 2018; 63(7):481-91. Epub 2018 Mar 7.

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