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Young white people have better mental health in ethnically diverse communities

White British young people living in more ethnically diverse deprived communities have better mental health than those living in exclusively white deprived neighbourhoods, according to a study.

The University College London (UCL) paper, published yesterday (November 7) in Social Science and Medicine investigated the relationship between ethnic density (proportion of one’s own ethnic group in a neighbourhood), ethnic diversity and adolescent mental health of over 4,000 young people aged between ten and 15 years of age in England.

The researchers found that mental health in the White British ethnic majority group is worse when they live in deprived ‘ethnically uniform’ neighbourhoods.

Mental health outcomes were measured by a total difficulties score (0-40) capturing four areas of potential difficulty (emotional symptoms, conduct problems, hyperactivity-in-attention, and peer relationship problems) and one area of strength (prosocial behaviour).

Factors that have been associated with mental health such as parents’ country of birth, parental education, family income and frequency of family communication were also taken into account.

White British youths living in neighbourhoods that are deprived and not ethnically diverse had a total difficulties score that was almost 2 points higher than those living in all other neighbourhoods, including deprived and diverse neighbourhoods.

Researchers say a key strength of the study was the sample size which allowed the researchers to test, for the first time, the interaction between neighbourhood ethnic diversity and deprivation and mental health among adolescents.

Dr Stephen Jivraj (UCL Institute of Epidemiology and Health Care), senior co-author said: ‘Our findings have important implications for policymakers looking to improve conditions in deprived neighbourhoods as they can be mindful that white working-class neighbourhoods may be linked to poorer mental health among white children.

‘We do also note that a limitation of the study is that it does not enable a nuanced picture to emerge as to how particular ethnic minority groups benefit more or less from ethnic diversity or which ethnic minority groups are most supportive for the ethnic majority.’

Photo Credit – UCL

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