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Ethnic density and mental health

BMJ 2010; 341 doi: (Published 21 October 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;341:c5252
  1. Helen Lester, professor of primary care
  1. 1NIHR National School for Primary Care Research, Manchester M13 9PL, UK
  1. helen.lester{at}

The association is clear but the underlying mechanisms are not

In the linked study (doi:10.1136/bmj.c5367), Das-Munshi and colleagues investigated whether living in areas where higher proportions of people of the same ethnicity reside protects against common mental disorders.1 They also searched for mediating effects, particularly reduced exposure to racism and improved social support. They found a protective effect for some minority groups (particularly Irish and Bangladeshi people) but that support and discrimination were not key mediating factors. Indeed they suggest that ethnic density mechanisms are likely to be heterogeneous and may not operate the same way across groups.


The notion of an effect of ethnic density is not new. The idea that living in an area with a high own ethnic group density may be protective for mental health was first noted in the early 20th century. In 1928, Robert Park began …

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